The Bow in Her Hair


At a young age, bows made me cringe. Especially pink bows. They were so girly. More girly than I ever wanted to be.

More than twenty years later, the good Lord decided to teach me lesson. He gave me a daughter.

During pregnancy, I was sicker than I ever was with her older brother. I was told many times that my morning, afternoon, night and every moment in-between sickness was because it was going to be a girl. I heard it so much that I would've been shocked if it turned out to be a boy.

The time came to find out the gender. I laid on the table as the ultrasound tech slapped thick, cold goo on my belly and rubbed it around with a device as images of our baby appeared on a screen.

"It's a girl!" she said as my husband and I smiled at the expected outcome.

We were both excited that it was a her. We just didn't know what to expect. My husband has three brothers. I have one brother. We had a son.

"What would I do with a daughter?" I thought.

And then, I had an epiphany. I would have a girl, but not a girly-girl. I was so serious about this that I specifically noted on the baby shower invitations that "colors other than pink are preferred."

That was so silly of me, right?

But either no one saw my pink protest, or they chose to ignore it. She was showered with pink tutus, pink hair bows, frilly pink socks and pink onesies with sparkles and ruffles.

Not long before she was born, I packed several outfit options for her in my hospital bag. I decided I needed to meet her first before choosing which one would be "the one." After all, it was her "Here I am, world!" outfit.

Her entrance caused a bit of panic, because no one was ready for her. She was born on the fourth of July, and there was one nurse who didn't seem to believe how far along I was in the labor process — until our daughter was actually on her way out. I still hadn't seen an anesthesiologist, and my OBGYN hadn't arrived yet. I'm pretty sure everyone was enjoying fireworks with their families.

Luckily, my doctor arrived just in the knick of time. When I held her for the first time, I could not believe how beautiful she was. Every time I looked at her, more disbelief set in. We spent a few days bonding in the hospital and it was apparent that she already had a personality. She demanded attention, but she did it in the sweetest ways possible — through silly sounds or funny movements. When she smiled, the world smiled with her. And I've always felt like that was her purpose for smiling.

It was our last day in the hospital before taking her to her home for the first time. I laid out the outfits I'd packed: a yellow dress, a blue and white floral print dress and a white and pink onesie with a few layers of ruffles on it. To my own surprise, I chose the white and pink ruffled onesie. And to top things off, I put a tiny pink bow in her barely-there blonde locks.

She was absolute perfection.

By time she reached Pre-K, she was getting picky about her outfits. They had to be dresses, and most of the time, they needed to be pink. She'd request a matching bow or headband to go with each one as she would look into the mirror and say, "Isn't this a beautiful outfit, mommy?"

Of course, they were.

She lives in a bright pink room with pink and white curtains. She wears tiaras like they are an extension of her head. She tells fifty percent of the people she meets that pink is her favorite color.

All of this, despite my attempt at a pink protest.

Now, as a kindergartener, bows remain a necessary accessory. Especially pink bows. But somewhere along the way, perhaps even that first day I took her home, I realized that I would embrace who she was — even if she was a girly-girl.

She was a tough girly-girl — something I thought of as an oxymoron before she came into my life. I worried less about her entering school than I did with her older brother. No one was going to walk all over her. She would never let that happen. I love that about her.

I love her love for bows and all-things-pink, too. If those are the things that make her happy, then they make me happy, too.

Her life won't always be that simple. But I admire that, for now, it's as simple as tiaras, hair accessories and the color pink. And I will always cherish these years and will remember the careful thought that she put into the selection and placement of her bows.

Few things. Very few things are more precious than the bow in her hair.

I protested pink with a note. She protested my protest by being herself.

The Unknown


About two months ago, I had some sort of a heart episode —— sharp pain in my chest and left shoulder that knocked me to the ground and had me sweating. It came and went within 20 seconds or so, but it felt like minutes, at least.

I chalked it up to some type of anxiety attack [though I've never had one before] and I took a nap. I made a doctor's appointment and had an EKG done. The results of my EKG were normal, though the doctor didn't have anything to compare it to since I've never had an EKG before.

The pain I felt in my chest that day was very real, and very scary. And with my rapid decline in health about 3 years ago, I worried that clotting could still be an issue for me. After all, clotting stopped the blood from circulating to my bones, causing them to deteriorate in my hips and shoulder [but since the removal of the Mirena IUD, there had been no further signs of clotting].

To be safe, she referred me to a hematologist [blood doctor]. I explained the same story to him. I explained what I knew of my family medical history. I recalled that a woman I met through my blog mentioned her Factor V Leiden blood disorder, which she believed led to her Avasular Necrosis. I asked to be tested for that, and just about every other potential blood disorder ever known to man.

Weeks later, I learned that the only test that came back abnormal was my MTHFR. My doctor explained that I have mutated MTHFR genes [one from each parent], which I can't help but identify as mutated M*TH**F****Rs [though it actually stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductace. Mine is better, right?].

The hematologist went on to explain that studies have not made any consistent connections between mutated MTHRs and blood clotting. He wished they didn't even include it in the testing, he said, because it just confuses people. It had certainly managed to confuse me, but the easiest way I can explain it [from reading about it] is that it controls the processing of specific amino acids that build protein and other important compounds.

Dysfunction of these enzymes are associated with homocystinuria, which typically forms in the first year of life [but can develop later in life] and may result in skeletal abnormalities; anencephaly, which is associated with neural tube defects; and spina bifida, another neural tube defect where bones to protect the nerves of the spinal cord are not fully developed.

It's safe to say that I now have skeletal abnormalities from my deterioration, but that is the result of Avascular Necrosis — not the mutated M*TH**F****Rs. Or are the mutated M*TH**F****Rs the cause of my clotting, which then caused my Avascular Necrosis? I asked the latter, but the hematologist says no. He says it's not my mutated M*TH**F****Rs' fault. However, my mutated M*TH**F****Rs are possible risk factors for heart attack, stroke and certain types of cancer. But those risk factors are not fully understood, because studies have given mixed results — that gene mutation in one individual may be associated with them, while another individual's is not.

"Therefore, it remains unclear what role changes in the MTHFR gene play in determining the risk of these complex conditions." [SOURCE:]

So, I have two mutated M*TH**F****Rs, but I don't really know what they are capable of. That's just like a M*TH**F****R, isn't it?

At this point, I'm pretty sure I've had more than 100 blood tests. And yet, still no definitive causes. I'm still confident that my Mirena IUD triggered my health issues. I'm just not sure if it is the lone culprit. The wanna-be scientist in me wants to formulate the entire thing —— the exact process of how and why it happened.

According to the Human Genome Project, a human being has 20,000 to 25,000 genes located on 46 chromosomes (23 pairs). These genes are known, collectively, as the human genome. I won't pretend to know or to fully understand this complex system of hereditary codes.

All I do know about any of this is that my M*TH**F****Rs are mutated. And my doctor has no idea what that means for me [I do appreciate his honesty].

The most common form of a mutated MTHFR [homocystinuria] affects at least 1 in 200,000 to 335,000 people worldwide.

More than 20,000 new cases of Avascular Necrosis are diagnosed in the US alone each year. The number of individuals affected worldwide is unknown. Often, it goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. There are also few known causes of this disease.

That's a lot of unknowns. But that's also life. Each day, we all wake up to unknowns. There's no telling what the next minute, hour or week may hold.

That's why I choose to focus on what I do know —— God wants me [you] to fulfill my [your] potential in life.

And that, I [we] will do.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us ... " -- Ephesians 3:20

Arms Lifted


Back in 2011, when the pain started in my left hip, and then moved to my right hip, I was concerned. I could barely walk, and with each step accompanied by distressing pain, I was forced to sit still for a good portion of my days.

When it spread to my right shoulder, leaving me unable to lift or use my right arm, I was terrified. I couldn't wave. I couldn't throw. I couldn't lift my children. My youngest wasn't even a year old at the time. I couldn't hug them with both arms.

I was living with broken hips and a broken shoulder, but they were not going to heal on their own as most broken bones do.

There was a larger problem that my doctors could not [and still cannot] figure out. I was clotting severely, so much so that the blood wasn't reaching my bones, and my bones were dying. I was also dealing with autoimmunity for the first time in life, and was diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome. In a matter of months, I went from a nearly perfect health profile to an absolutely scary one.

I was telling my doctors what I believed the cause was [the Mirena IUD, which was inserted about 6 months earlier], but they refused to acknowledge that because there are no studies to back it up [not because studies disprove this, but because they don't exist - help me to change that HERE]. Although I wasn't even considering a lawsuit at the time, perhaps they feared I would involve them in a legal battle. I saw just about every type of doctor you could imagine. I had countless tubes of blood drawn. But still, they concluded my case as idiopathic, meaning no known cause.

I felt like they weren't listening. I felt like they didn't care.

It was a dark time for me, because I never felt more at odds with myself or the professionals I trusted with my care. My well-being.

I tapped into my faith like never before. I gave it all to God. It was beyond my control.

For the first time in a long time, perhaps forever, I let faith alone guide my decisions.

I had the Mirena IUD removed, and the Avascular Necrosis never spread to my left shoulder, which was unique compared to most cases of Avascular Necrosis that quickly progress from one side to the next [like it did in my hips]. I started scheduling corrective surgeries, one right after the other, every 6 weeks for about 6 months. I needed to get back on my feet. I needed to lift my arm again. I had core decompressions surgeries on both hips and my shoulder. When my left hip collapsed, I had it replaced. Both hips have proved to be too damaged to benefit from core decompression surgery, meaning my right hip will also need to be replaced soon.

But in my shoulder, which was the final joint to become affected, I saw steady improvement. During physical therapy sessions, I could raise my right arm a little higher each time. I could lift things that were a little heavier.

Through all of this, I continued to lean on God. I prayed for healing, patience, understanding. I asked for His continuous guidance.

After six months of being in a wheelchair and heavily relying on aides, I took my first independent steps into my church on a Sunday in August of 2012. Instead of sitting in the back of worship in a wheelchair, I was finally walking up the aisle when the band began to play the most fitting of songs, Never Once. It was a powerful moment, and I felt the Lord's presence perhaps more prominently than ever before.

About a year and half later, I started training as a sound technician during the worship services. During my first night of training the band played Never Once. I smiled inconspicuously, knowing that I was in the right place. On the right path. I faithfully listened, and here I was.

Last week, my husband and I were invited to lead worship in a choir-of-sorts from the stage. I wanted to put it all out there, to lift my arms to Him, and show Him praise.

The night before I wasn't sure if my right shoulder would cooperate. I knew it was drastically improved. But I still can't throw. I have limited mobility and strength. Even at rehearsal earlier in the week, I didn't even attempt to lift my right arm, fearing it wouldn't make it in the air.

That Saturday night, I prayed again. I reflected on how far I'd come and how many of my past prayers had been answered. I even expressed in prayer that I'd already received more than enough of His grace — more than I felt I deserved.

The next morning at church, it became apparent that God wasn't done with me yet. Without pain through three consecutive songs, and for two back-to-back services, my arms were lifted. Both of them. During the services, I relied on God. And I gained the confidence to once again rely on my right shoulder.

Perhaps that ability had been there, and I just didn't know it. Lately, I'd been too comfortable. I was starting to settle. I was returning to making decisions that weren't guided by faith. While I wasn't completely out of the darkness I'd once experienced, I was certainly enjoying the light. And I was beginning to take that for granted.

If I could seek His constant guidance through the darkness, I needed to praise Him and continue to seek Him as I stood in the light.

Though I still seek answers to questions about my health, I've learned to focus more on the answers I've already received.

I do not lift my arms to Him simply because I can. I lift them with purpose — the purpose He gives me.

"So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands."
-- Psalm 63:4

The Magic Kingdom in One Day (with toddlers)

The Magic Kingdom in one day? *GASP*

With toddlers? *DOUBLE GASP*

I'm here to tell you that it's not only possible, it can be enjoyable, too.

Our family of five [children ages 3, 5 and 13] set out for Florida the week after school let out [for us, this is the second week in June]. We had plenty of other things planned, but while our daughter's [age 5] world still revolved around Disney princesses, we couldn't pass up going to the Magic Kingdom. We decided on just one day at Disney, which for a family of five is about $500.00. Our youngest [3] still takes daily naps [and, sometimes, still poops his pants], so we weren't ready yet for the full Walt Disney World experience.

We started by deciding which day of the week we would go. Disney is always going to be busy. But their website indicated that Monday, Thursday and Saturday were the busiest days of the week in the Magic Kingdom. So, we went on Wednesday. We didn't have another day to compare it to, but I'd say our choice to go in the middle of the week was a good one. Most of the lines we waited in were about 30 minutes. The longest line we waited in was one hour.

Leading up to our trip, I packed everything separately that we would need for our day at the park. Doing this ahead of time, and with careful thought was key to our success. Here is a list of everything we took to the Magic Kingdom in a book bag:

  • Two small ponchos

  • Small first aid kit

  • Stroller hooks [1 large for stroller to hang book bag, 1 small to hang water bottles on the book bag loop]

  • Two Brita water bottles with filter [we filled up at water fountains]

  • Ziplock bag w/ pin backs

  • notebooks and pens [for character signatures]

  • Sunscreen

  • Jackery Bar portable charger [charges up three iPhones fully]

  • Snacks/Sandwiches

  • Glow sticks/necklaces

  • Phone charger(s)/charging station

  • Change of clothes for the kids

  • diapers/wipes

  • Lanyards for Disney pins [one for each child]

  • We definitely wanted our daughter to experience the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique. But we didn't necessarily want to use precious park time to make this happen. So, we made reservations at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique in Downtown Disney for Tuesday night [the night before we visited the Magic Kingdom]. There are two boutiques you can make reservations at: One in Downtown Disney, and another in Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. For the Downtown Disney location, you don't have to have a ticket [and parking is free]. It's mostly shops and restaurants with a couple of small rides.

    We had dinner at T-Rex. We were never able to make reservations ahead of time [because they were filled], so we went straight there and put our names on the wait list. We had about 45 minutes until our table would be ready, so the kids rode the carousel, the train ride, and played with Legos at the Lego store until it was time to eat.

    After dinner, we headed over to the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique, where our daughter [5] and youngest son [3] had reservations. The 13-year-old was completely uninterested in this, but I think he secretly found delight in his younger siblings' experience. We got the Knight Package [$18.95] for our son, which included a thick foam sword and shield and a cool hairdo. We did the Crown Package [$59.95] for our daughter, which included a princess hairstyle and make-up, a princess sash and tote, and she got her nails did. We took a Cinderella dress with us to save money, but once she saw all of the dresses in the store, she had to have one. And we were slightly expecting that anyhow. The fit of that dress was much better though. And just FYI - Elsa dresses are only available in the Boutique [with a package], but not for sale in the store.

    We purchased Disney's Memory Maker package [$149.00]. I was really on the fence about purchasing this, but decided to go for it, because I knew I'd end up buying enough photos of us that would add up to at least $150.00. This was an excellent choice. They documented their entire experience at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique, and there was a portrait center in Downtown Disney where they had extra photos taken. All of our photos were included for free because of the Memory Maker package. In fact, I felt like we were getting special treatment and extra photos when we mentioned we purchased it [but maybe they actually make everyone feel that special, and I was just hoping we were extra special].

    After the boutique, our daughter could not stop looking at herself in the mirror for the rest of the night, until eventually she laid her princess head down and fell asleep, tiara and all. This worked out well, because she was all dolled up and ready for the Magic Kingdom the next morning.

    Another thing we wanted to do was the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway. The oldest [13] did the junior ride along experience, and my husband did the ride along experience [you have to be at least 14 for this]. This included 3 laps in a NASCAR race car. For this, you do have to have a ticket to the Magic Kingdom. But still knowing our park time was precious, we booked it for the earliest possible time, 9:30 a.m. To get to the racetrack, there was a race way shuttle that picked us up from the Lost and Found building outside of the Magic Kingdom gates. We were picked up by 9 a.m. and they were riding by 9:30 a.m. The shuttle had us back to the entrance by 10:30 a.m. The photos taken here were, unfortunately, not included in the Memory Maker package. There were photos with plaques and videos offered to us for sale after the rides. I would have purchased the plaques, but didn't want to carry them around all day since we already had plenty of cargo. I was told that they are a separate company from WDW, but just located on their property.

    Using the MyDisney app, we made reservations at Tony's Town Square Restaurant for 11:00 a.m. This gave us enough time to meet TinkerBell and Mickey Mouse, who are housed in the same building. We also had some extra time to step out into the Town Square to meet Pluto. At Tony's, I ordered a Margherita Pizza, and I kid you not, it was the best pizza I've ever had! The whole family agreed that the food was reasonably priced and delicious (and kid-friendly). I've been craving more of their pizza since we left there.

    After lunch, our FastPasses were ready to kick into full gear. We were each given three FastPasses to use. We chose our fast pass experiences [and times] using the MyDisney app. We did not purchase Magic Bands, because our admission cards worked just as well [that is what you use to scan your FastPass if you don't have a Magic Band]. You have a one-hour timeframe in which to use each Fast Pass. If you show up five minutes early, or five minutes late, your FastPass will not register [I saw this happen to others]. We weren't sure if we wanted to split up, so we all used the same times and locations for our FastPasses.

    We used one FastPass early in the afternoon to meet Cinderella and Rapunzel at the Princess Hall. With our FastPass, it took about 15 minutes. The regular waiting time was one hour, so I felt like this was an excellent choice. We would have used a FastPass to meet Anna and Elsa, but I was never given that option, so if anyone knows the secret to getting a Fast Pass to see them, do tell! I never did see anyone go to see them using a Fast Pass, so perhaps that's not an option yet. Those girls sure are exclusive, huh?

    We used another FastPass to meet Ariel and we basically walked right in to see her. The regular wait was about 30 minutes, so we probably would have been better off using this Fast Pass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or the Dumbo ride [which was about a 45-minute wait].

    We used the last FastPass for Ariel's Journey Under the Sea ride. We waited about 10 minutes with our FastPass, and the regular line was about a 45-minute wait. I felt pretty good about our use of the FastPass for that one.

    We stayed in FantasyLand for majority of the day. That's also where we chose all of our FastPasses, so we wouldn't be too far from our time-sensitive destinations. By about 3 p.m., we headed to Tomorrowland. We rode the Tomorrowland Speedway [which would have been another good option for the Fast Pass]. Then, my husband and oldest son rode Space Mountain, while the "littles" and I danced with the Incredibles. Shortly after, the youngest took a quick power nap in the shade while my daughter had some ice cream.

    By 6 p.m., we were heading over to Frontierland and Adventureland. By this point, we got very picky about the rides we went on. We only rode Jungle Cruise in Adventureland, and Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland. Either of those also would have been an excellent pick for the FastPass. We waited about one-hour in line for each.

    We didn't make any dinner reservations. We needed some freedom to go and do as we pleased after most of our morning and early afternoon was reserved activities. We actually packed up snacks and sandwiches in a lunch bag and scarfed those down as we kept moving. I really don't know if we were allowed to bring in sandwiches, but we were much too hungry to care.

    We snuck back over to Fantasyland for a bit. Throughout the day, each time we saw a Disney photographer, we took a photo and added it to our MemoryMaker account using a card that they scanned. I had hoped by this point [about 8 p.m.] that the line for Anna and Elsa had gone down some. But it was a 120-minute wait, so we never did meet them. There was no way the "littles" were going to wait in a 2-hour line to do anything. That was a bit of bummer, but we didn't let it get us down.

    We rode a few more quick rides in Fantasyland, and then headed back to the Town Center to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade at 9 p.m. The kids were exhausted at this point [we were, too], but the smiles on their faces gave us enough energy to stick it out. We got a perfect spot on the curb of the main circle in the Town Center. This got the kids up close and personal with the parade characters, and it was close to the park exit. One of Cinderella's mouses came over and bowed to our daughter, who was still dressed up as Cinderella. She clearly felt very special by this gesture.

    We took the ferry back to the parking lot, and drove off as the fireworks blasted over top of the trees.

    A 13-hour day had never gone by faster, or been more magical. From just one night at Downtown Disney, and one day in Magic Kingdom, we ended up with about 105 cherished, captured moments [many that included ALL of us, and we didn't have to lug a camera around]. Then, there's the countless memories housed in our brains. With exception of one [maybe two] of our FastPass choices, and the fact that we probably won't do the Richard Petty Driving Experience again [been there, done that, but we'd consider it], I'd do it all the same again.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering, our 3-year-old didn't even poop his pants while we were there. Yep, it's magical.

    Nine Lovely Days


    I graduated college on a Friday in June of 2002. That following Monday, I did what everyone else in my family (five generations back to be exact) had done. I got a job at the local shipyard. I was a young mother at the time — my son was almost two years old, which meant there was no time for a graduation trip or time off before entering the "real world."

    Twelve years had passed, and I still hadn't managed to take a full week off of work.

    So much had changed from then to now. I got divorced. I got a new job. I got remarried. I had two more children. I had four surgeries. Since I was only actually paid for four weeks of maternity leave (but needed six), and I chose not to take disability leave after my surgeries (using vacation instead). I struggled to accrue enough time off for any type of extended vacation.

    But this month, that changed.

    We finally did it. Our family of five managed a vacation that lasted nine whole days.

    Nine lovely days.

    About a month prior, I had a cortisone injection in my hip joint. I'd hoped it would last, but it didn't. Still, despite the pain, I went. I was beyond determined to make this trip happen. I needed it. We all needed it.

    We were going to Florida. And even if my family had to wheel me in a chair (which they didn't), we were going to Disney World.

    We started planning at the start of the new year. We even made an agenda for our trip, which was really more of an outline of options than a 'must-do' list.

    I stared at the agenda, updating it constantly right up until the day before we left, and daydreaming about how some it would play out.

    Two days of driving. Three days with my best friend and her family. Several days at the resort, swimming and doing other activities. One day at Downtown Disney. One day at LegoLand. And one very full day at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

    On the road, the kids (ages 3, 5 and 13) cooperated much better than anticipated, with no major meltdowns along the way. Spending time with my best friend and her family was instant Chicken Soup for my Soul.

    The Magic Kingdom was as magical as I remembered it as a child, and if you are interested, I go into [a lot] more detail about that day in another post: The Magic Kingdom in One Day (with toddlers).

    I can safely say that it was far better than any daydream I conjured up.

    I didn't daydream the moment when my daughter, who was dressed as Cinderella, got Cinderella's autograph in her book, and walked away hugging the book to her heart while letting out a happy sigh that brought tears to my eyes. That was real.

    I didn't daydream my youngest son constantly climbing up and zipping down the water slide at LegoLand with a boisterous laughter that seemed to be volumes above the dozens of other children playing in the area. That was real.

    I didn't daydream my oldest son grabbing for my hand in public as we walked from the arcade to the ice cream parlor. That's something he hasn't done in years, but something I sorely missed. That was real.

    I didn't daydream my daughter practicing a song she titled, "I love you," before performing it for my oldest son. Or how she would learn to swim all by herself for the first time. Or how our youngest would do 180s from the side of the pool, only taking breaks to eat watermelon or to hug his [stuffed] baby lion. Or how my husband and I could do more laughing than stressing, and talk about things other than what we needed to accomplish the next day and who needed to take the kids where at what time.

    We all only needed to be with each other. Having fun. Spending undistracted time together. Making unforgettable memories. And even relaxing some.

    For nine lovely days.

    I'm so glad I didn't let my pain hold me back.

    Long vacations may not have been a thing of my past, but they are certainly a thing of our future.

    One Long Wait, One Real Hip, One Dead Phone


    I was doing so well. People were actually commenting on how much my stride had improved.

    About two weekends ago, my husband and I decided to be kids again. We went to an amusement park —- all by ourselves! We rode roller coasters, shared ice cream, played games and won some stuffed animals for the kids, and we even dip-dyed candles just for kicks.

    I knew going into our little excursion that I would be pushing my body to the limit, but I'd hoped that I would quickly recover.

    But I didn't. So, after two weeks of limping that was getting progressively worse, I returned to the doctor to request another cortisone injection into my joint. My last injection had lasted months, and had great results. And I wanted my stride back.

    It was a typical visit, except that my phone was dead and I quickly realized how much I would miss the distraction it provides in such a setting. In the main waiting area, I flipped through a few magazines that I was fairly uninterested in, occasionally glancing up at the national news, which played out scenes of flooding in New York. Out of the windows, I took notice of some tall, slender trees with only limbs at the very top, and for some reason, I wished I knew how to identify said trees.

    "If I had my phone charged, I could probably look up what type of trees those are," I thought.

    "Or perhaps I wouldn't have noticed the trees at all," my thought continued.

    Eventually, my name was called for my next wait in the room.

    Once in the room, there were no magazines. No television. No other people. No windows. Just me, and my latest hip X-ray on a computer screen.

    Of course I know my hip has been replaced, but each time I'm faced with it on screen, my thoughts lie somewhere in between impressed and utterly confused. I have one real hip, and one titanium hip. An actual piece of myself missing and replaced with a large piece of metal, a screw, and a round wire that, at one point, was holding together a crack created during my replacement surgery. There it is on the screen and there it lives in my body.

    I was reminded of a recent X-ray I had for kidney stones where two nurses thought they pulled up the wrong X-ray.

    "You're too young for a hip replacement," one nurse said.

    "Avascular Necrosis," I replied.

    She confirmed her understanding with an "Ah, Okay," as only nurses and medical professionals do, because no one else knows what the heck Avascular Necrosis is.

    It was late in the afternoon as I continued to wait in the room, and the building was quiet enough for me to hear the doctor making his rounds. I could tell he was still a few rooms down the hall. This was going to be a long wait and I had no idea what time it was. Maybe it was better that way.

    My eyes returned to the X-ray, and I briefly tried to make sense of how any of this even came to be, but decided to cut off that train of thought. With little options left, I decided to stare at the floor for a bit. I began visualizing the grains of the wood floor into images, the way people often do with clouds. In them, I found shapes reminiscent of teddy bears and "Mother Mary."

    I checked my phone to see if it had miraculously received some power, but it hadn't. I rested my right elbow on the chair, plopped my head in the palm of my hand, and let my heavy eyelids lower to their rightful place.

    A few moments later, the doctor walked in. We talked for a bit. He asked me to consider getting my right hip replaced. He said that the shots, while helpful, are only temporarily masking the problem. He said that when/if this next shot wears off, I should go ahead and schedule my next replacement.

    I looked back to the computer screen at my one real hip. I could see that my hip joint was splotchy-looking and that the ball of my hip was not round, but somewhat ridgy, like a mountain top. Earlier, I was so focused on the replaced hip that I didn't take as much notice of the real one.

    Just months prior, I thought my hip was on the mend. I was optimistic about having years, at least, left to go on it. But here I was again, trying to imagine any time this year when a having another replacement surgery would be convenient. Of course, no time came to mind.

    I nodded along to his statements, realizing the truth in them, but every emotion inside of me just wanted to break out into a full on kicking-and-screaming tantrum right on the same spot of the floor where I had just envisioned teddy bears and "Mother Mary."

    But on the outside, I just kept nodding.

    After my shot, which involved a needle that appeared to be as long as my titanium hip, I was in route to my final wait area for a new X-ray. I caught a glimpse of a clock in the hallway and realized it was about 5:35 p.m. My appointment was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. I walked in and sat down with some relief to a television that was airing an episode of "House Hunters." Just as I grew annoyed at the woman on screen who grumbled over a kitchen backsplash that didn't suit her tastes, they called me back for the X-ray.

    After no more waiting was left to be had, I exited the X-ray area to find no one at reception, no doctors, no nurses, no other patients. Just me, the X-ray technician who now held an image of my one real hip in her hands, and a custodian who was cleaning up after a full day of patients.

    They let me drive home this time, which was different than the last time I received a joint injection. I wasn't sure why, but I didn't question it, and besides, no one was there to question anyways. Within an hour of getting home, my injected hip was in so much pain that it felt like I had a 200-pound leg hanging from my hip, ready to cut loose from the rest of my body. My temperature rose to 100 degrees, so I laid down to rest and hoped to wake up to something better.

    By morning my temperature was gone, and my pain was barely there. I got out of bed to discover that I wasn't limping any more. The injection was doing it's job. This could last days, weeks, possibly months.

    I'm going to give my thoughts some time to settle. With an upcoming trip to Disney World next month, I'm pretty certain the pain will return.

    I'm also certain I'm not willing to let my circumstances stop me from having adventures and experiences with my young family. Again, I'm reminded that sitting and letting life pass me by is not, and may never be, my cup of tea.

    For as long as the Lord gives me another day -- I've still got places to go, sights to see, memories to make.

    Avascular Necrosis is an unruly condition that has taken the very framework that held me up and attempted to knock it down. But I am so very thankful that options exist to give me the quality of life that I desire.

    And so, I will keep on keeping on ... until I can't any longer.

    I almost forgot what my days of waiting without a smart phone were like. It'd been a few years since I've gone through that process without shoving my face into a tiny, little screen that emerged from my purse. And I kind of liked being more present and observant in the shifting rotations of waits after all.

    "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
    — Romans 5:2-5

    The Last Day in April


    It's been three months since my last post, and so much has changed since then. Yet, so much else has remained the same.

    Some days are almost painless, and others are painful. This is the life I've learned to live and I am A-OK with that.

    I started a new job in February. On my first day, I spent most of my time cleaning up my office and organizing my things. I opened up boxes that I had filled up from my previous office, just a few hundred yards up the road. I didn't go far, but it was still a big decision for me to leave a job that I knew I loved, for a job that I could potentially love more. I pulled books and other memorabilia out of the boxes, making sure to give each item it's own special place.

    A bookshelf lined the wall next to my new door. I placed three framed photos of my family on top of it, carefully shifting over a small 2-ring desktop calendar — the kind with one day on each page that you flip as the days pass. I did a double-take, surely with a look of confusion that luckily no one would have seen since a wall blocked me from my new co-workers' sight.

    The calendar was flipped to April 30, 2014. It was February 18, 2014.

    It struck me the way that my birth date normally does. But my faith, as it so often does, led me to ponder what else was involved.

    Certainly, a person flipped it to that date. But why that date? Was I supposed to let it go or read into it further? Was it a sign from above or was I over-thinking this?

    Well, as of yesterday, April 30, 2014, has come and gone. It was my 35th birthday.

    It was a very busy work day, followed by a night of fun. My husband, along with a few family accomplices, managed to surprise me at my daughter's dance class with a new outfit he bought me — right down to the high heels and earrings. They sent me out the door, completely childless, with a card that said to go home and get ready for dinner. I felt all Pretty Woman-like, minus the fact that I've never been [or will be] a hooker.

    As some of you may know, and probably most do not, my birth date on it's own has major significance for me. My birth mother was only 16 when I was conceived. She visited an abortion clinic, but left when she watched a video that explained the procedure. She chose to give me life, and in turn, gave my parents a daughter. And my three children a chance at life. One day, they may have children, too, so her selfless decision can be seen and carried on, potentially, for many generations to come.

    I've lived a good life. An amazing one, actually. The kind any loving mom would want her child to have.

    The kind my birth mother wanted me to have. And the kind that my mom and dad provided me [and still provide me] with. I simply cannot thank one, without thanking the other. She gave me life, and they were there every step of the way — helping to mold me, teach me and to catch me as I fall.

    Behind all of the fun surprises and the 35th anniversary of my birth, I had some mixed emotions.

    You see, the very woman who gave me life met with her doctor yesterday and was given a cancer diagnosis and a median life expectancy of one year. As far as I can tell, she will face her battle with strength and optimism.

    I already know she is strong. I don't know the amount of strength it must take to give your baby a chance at a better life — one that doesn't involve you — but I know it would be an immeasurable amount. For her to have that type of strength at the young age of 16, I can only imagine the type of strength she's developed in her 35 years since then.

    The thing is, life expectancies are merely an average of others' experiences. Not hers.

    And there is nothing average about her strength.

    And for me, there is nothing average about the last day of April.

    "We live by faith, not by sight."

    -- 2 Corinthians 5:7

    Avascular Necrosis and Disability Benefits


    The following is a guest post from Molly at Social Security Disability Help:

    Avascular necrosis, or bone death, is a serious medical condition that worsens with time. Progressive pain and loss of mobility can make it impossible for an individual with Avascular Necrosis to maintain employment and earn a living. The resulting loss of income and lack of medical insurance can be financially devastating.

    If you have Avascular Necrosis and can no longer work, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Disability benefits can be used to help offset lost income, medical costs, and daily living expenses.

    This article will provide you with a general understanding of Social Security Disability benefits and will prepare you to begin the application process.

    SSD Programs and Basic Eligibility

    Social Security Disability benefits are governed and distributed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA offers two different types of disability benefits. These are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each program has separate eligibility requirements.

  • SSDI is designed to offer financial assistance to disabled workers and their eligible dependent family members. To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have paid a certain amount of Social Security taxes throughout their careers. For an in depth look into SSDI technical eligibility requirements, visit the following page:

  • SSI, on the other hand, is designed to offer financial assistance to disabled individuals who earn very little income and have very few financial resources. Eligibility for SSI is based solely on the financial limitations set by the SSA. Learn more, here:

  • Individuals who qualify for SSDI but still fall within the SSI financial limits may be able to receive both SSDI and SSI benefits.

    Medical Eligibility

    If you meet SSDI or SSI technical eligibility criteria, you will then have to prove your medical eligibility. The SSA will perform an in depth review of your medical records to determine if your avascular necrosis is severe enough to cause complete disability. Your records will be compared with listings in the Blue Book, which is a manual of recognized disabilities and the medical requirements for each.

    Because there is no Blue Book listing for avascular necrosis, the SSA will attempt to match your symptoms with those of another Blue Book listing. The following listing requirements may closely match many of the symptoms caused by avascular necrosis:

  • Section 1.02 – Major dysfunction or deformity of one or more joints

  • Section 1.06 – Bone fractures

  • Section 7.05 – Sickle cell anemia

  • Section 14.02 – Lupus

  • Section 14.09 – Rheumatoid arthritis

  • If you require joint surgery as a result of avascular necrosis, you may also qualify for disability benefits under Blue Book listing 1.03. This listing requires that you are unable to effectively walk for a period of at least 12 months following surgery.

    To access all Blue Book listings, visit the following page:

    In is important to note that the SSA will consider the effects of all of an applicant’s conditions. For this reason, it is important to include information on any and all health conditions that impair your ability to work—even if they don’t occur as a result of your avascular necrosis.

    Medical Vocational Allowance

    If you do not meet or match a listing in the Blue Book, you may still be eligible to receive SSD benefits under a medical vocational allowance. Essentially, this means that the SSA will evaluate your physical capabilities, your job training, your age, and several other factors to see how your condition affects your ability to hold a job.

    To qualify under a medical vocational allowance, you will be required to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form with a medical professional. You and your doctor must complete separate RFC report forms. Be proactive and have these done even before the SSA requires them. This may prevent any delays in your claim and possibly allow you to be approved faster.

    Social Security Disability Application Process

    Before beginning the application process, it is important that you collect all required medical and non-medical documents to support your disability claim. This may include the following:

  • Education and training documentation and employment records

  • Financial information regarding income, savings, and financial resources

  • Diagnostic test results, including imaging scans and bone biopsies

  • Notes from medical appointments that show physical findings, diagnosis, and observations about the limitations you experience and the outlook of your condition

  • Records of the treatments you’ve undergone and the manner in which they have affected you

  • RFC report forms from you and your treating physician

  • Once you have collected the necessary records you can begin the application process online or in person at your local Social Security field office. The application consists of several different forms. It is important that you take your time when filling these out. Any mistakes or incomplete information may result in the delay or denial of your claim.

    Receiving a Decision

    After submitting your disability claim, you may not receive a decision for several months. While you are waiting, it is important that you continue to follow any prescribed medical treatment and continue to collect updated medical records. This will help you in the event that your claim is denied.

    If your initial claim is in fact denied, you will have 60 days in which to appeal the SSA’s decision. It is important that you do not give up and that you continue on in your pursuit of disability benefits. It is understandable to be discouraged after receiving a denial but the appeals process is often a necessary step toward receiving disability benefits. In fact, many more applications are approved during the appeals processes than during the initial application.

    For more information visit Social Security Disability Help ( contact Molly Clarke at


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