When you’re opening a tiny paper window to eat a foil-wrapped chunk of chocolate each day, the days seem to go faster. By the ninth or tenth, all those open windows whisper ‘there’s not much time left to do all the things.‘ By the 20th, they scream ‘hurry, time is running out.‘ Today, I savor the chocolate, knowing there is only one window left, but I question this advent tradition along with the way we are living out these days- not waiting- but rushing and hemorrhaging resources. Like the Universe, we’re expanding, until one day we will simply disappear.
I started hating my body at nine when my belly was a white biscuit between two slick navy blue bikini parts. I hated my body when my Dad said we should jog together and started calling my sisters and I the Bertha Butt sisters. My breasts were too small to offset a ribcage that towered over hip bones when I lay deformed on the beach. Later, my pregnant belly swelled and then deflated into two doughy parts on either side of a vertical C-section scar. I gained fifty pounds and lost only the weight of a ten pound baby.
At fifty-nine, I almost love my body, I certainly don’t hate her any longer. My legs are strong and my knees can bounce on a trampoline. My arms, though melasma mapped, can squeeze my grandchildren. My dimpled thighs droop like my breasts, which point southeast and southwest these days. Preschool children love to squish my upper arms. My soft stomach is the bodyguard who tells me when to take a break from sweets and rest my body. My hair sparkles with natural highlights and I still smile with my eyes. If I could just learn to love my neck.
You pull me back from time to time. Tired and with a long to-do list, something compels me to return. The bread is gluten-free, which means I am not allergic to God here. I study random patterns in the gingerbread colored brickwork while meditating to advent hymns. My empty tank is filled when they light the peace candle. I buy beads to help the unhoused and accept a milkweed pod which may feed Monarchs on their way to Mexico next fall. A woman whispers, “I love your fairy hair” and I smile. We are all still young inside.
Today they walked around in the way looking at their phone while we cleaned. Dad asked them to take out all the trash and they suddenly seemed terribly sad again- long face, sloth-like movements. They were headed out with a half-full giant bag when I asked if they got all of it. “I know we can find some more trash to fill that up.” Glaring at me with blue daggers for eyes, they said “there’s no more trash in the house.” To which I wanted to laugh and laugh, but I just went to find them more trash.
I pay for this site so that I can keep the kimmstree.com address, but I haven’t written on here in three years. Part of the reason is because life got really hectic; now it is less so. Part of it is that I couldn’t decide what kind of blog this would be, but I think it has pretty much been a health blog [impending menopause, thyroid, RA]. I toyed with the idea of using it as a platform for my side gig selling books for Usborne, but then, I am so disenchanted with the MLM model, that I just can’t.
So, here’s a quick update: My RA morphed into Vasculitis. I’m convinced it was due to stress from my job [some Shakespearean parents whose constant litigation caused many so much extra work and hassle]. What that looked like was petechiae on my lower legs and hemorrhages on my retina. Because my sister had been hospitalized with LV and had to go on months of Cytotoxan, my doc put me on the infusions Robin was taking: Rituxan- and things got better. I take the infusions every 5 months- previously it was six months, but I was having breakthrough pain and symptoms, so she shortened it. This drug replaced Humira with a side of MTX. I stopped taking the Methotrexate due to a host of side effects, as well as the Plaquenil and replaced all with Rituxan. Now the infusions are a Godsend for the RA, but the vasculitis tries so hard to slip back in. I am a week from my first of two infusions this month and I am having symptoms which I attribute to the Vasculitis: sore ears [a weird aural fullness that is a painful ache], fevers, aching around my neck, scalp pain, itching.
I had planned to retire at age 60, which is a little over 2 years away, but I cashed in my chips this year, a victim of Covid19. I didn’t get Covid, but my sister did and she was on a ventilator for over 100 days. That will be a whole other entry entirely. I went to work from home March 2020 doing what teachers do- making it work. Spring of 2020 was hard, but the 20/21 school year was even more difficult still. Many people have no respect for what this was like. They saw teachers sitting on a sofa at home and, we were, but we were there for 16 hours a day. We only got up to take care of pressing personal needs. I taught EC, so I had to create content for my students that was engaging enough to keep their attention. It would take me hours to create content that could be delivered in less than 30 minutes. I learned to use CANVAS, delivered group and individual instruction, managed staff, made packets, trained parents on how to use all of the new platforms, delivered items to student homes, and continued to keep up with data, IEPs, and everything else the district threw at me. I just could not do it again this year. I wanted to hang in there for full retirement, but I looked at it through a risk to benefit ratio and then cashed out. I have absolutely no regrets.
I feel like it will be the Vasculitis that gets me in the end, not the RA, and I do not want to waste any time. I am taking a writing course, writing, working out, soul searching, and just generally grateful for every single moment. The problem with working as hard as we were all working last year is that you don’t even have time to be grateful, it’s like swimming from Cuba to Miami with sharks chasing you. I love each morning and I go to bed happy every night. I am still working for the group home writing plans and have taken on a part time supervision role, but for right now that is enough. I am also having fun volunteering at the Carolina Theatre downtown.
This title sounds like a star date and that is about right. It feels like light years since I wrote anything for this blog and it appears it has actually been two years since I made an entry. Two incredibly busy years kept me from blogging… let’s see, I have been teaching 3-5 AU [which requires the energy of 3 or 4 people] and continuing to work part-time at the group home, dreaming of retirement and/or a time when I can read books again and maybe write books finally, living this crazy romantic life with Bean where I bridge two cities and live out of little bags that I schlep back and forth in my car, and dealing with a crazy woman who is the biological parent of Audrey and Rusty and this is an entire story unto itself, so yes, I’ve been a bit busy.
The crazy selfish bio parent has a weird and abusive older boyfriend who attacked Rusty multiple times, we didn’t know until the last when he made the North to Alaska call to his Dad in the moment. Skip forward to weird Trumper-boyfriend signing a DVPO voluntarily to avoid having said children testify in court, Mom saying I’ll miss you guys and moving a city away to a smaller apartment and now only seeing one of the kids for a couple hours each week. This all happened almost a year ago and the fallout has required me to step up and our relationship to change since the kids went from being around 14 of every 28 days to 28 of every 28 days and 24 hours of every day. We are not complaining as they are better off in so many ways, but the disappointment that we all feel for this horrible woman and her terrible choices weighs like a heavy rock we all have our hands up in the air to collectively carry. We are trying to find a big cliff to pitch it off and purge ourselves of the dark cloud of letdown and disbelief.
RA turned out was the moderate to severe and aggressive sort that only responded to a multimodal full on assault of Methotrexate, weekly instead of bi-weekly Humira injections, Plaquenil, and sometimes steroid bumps/tapers. I have erosions in my hands and feet after only 4 years and my feet look different with weird nodules and bunions and daylight sign on middle toes. I don’t think about RA as much, though, and it is now just part of the landscape of my life, in fact, I would have said I was in a good chemical remission, until late spring/early summer when the Vasculitis hit. I developed petechiae on my feet, and since my sister just spent the better part of a year slaying this particular dragon, I knew what this might be. A routine visit to my eye doc where they found hemorrhages on my retina and I knew for sure. Now, we have to figure out how to proceed while I do daily steroid doses that are making me a bit moon-faced already.
I did get invited to go to Boston, though, to a Co-Creation Conference [which I don’t really know a lot about so far but will be going next week, so I will fill in the blanks then] to speak to medical professionals about my RA journey. I am so glad that I had this blog, because I can literally go back and read about what it felt like when I was diagnosed and remember some of the things I have forgotten about what it was like when I was dying a bit every day from the pain and exhaustion.
And so, halfway through a wonderful summer break when I have time to actually write a paragraph, I have an all expenses paid solo trip to Boston to look forward to and a chance to share my story, and who doesn’t love a story more than me?
HB2, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Bill” was proposed and quickly voted on and signed into law in a matter of hours about a month ago. Many of us were confused from the git go. I mean, it pretty much stands to reason that the men go in the men’s room and the women go in the women’s room, unless you have a child who is vulnerable due to age or disability and then you take them in your bathroom or the family bathroom. I never much thought about whether there were transgendered persons in my bathroom. There probably were times I used the ladies room with a person who was transgendered, but I didn’t know it. This was just never something I was spending much brain power on, but apparently our legislature was very bothered by it. They tend to spend lots of time pondering how they can restrict, set rules about, and control the genitalia of the people of NC.
Since then, there has been a shit storm of backlash, and of course, it has been dichotomized by party. I’m not going to rehash this, because unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been out of the country or taking a long FB break, you know what the backlash has consisted of on both sides.
I really try to stay out of it on FB. I use some social media etiquette and I try very hard not to comment on others’ posts that I happen to disagree with, even those whose posts contain information I know to be patently false. I don’t unfriend people for having views different than mine, although, that has happened to me quite a few times and fairly recently by someone whom I considered to be a friend. I try to remember that if I would not say something to someone’s face if I ran into them in the grocery, I shouldn’t write it on their wall/post or reply to their comment that way.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that this legislation is a deplorable example of discrimination made legal by folks who don’t understand/are afraid of/hate/fear the LGBT community. We provide diversity training now to social workers, educators, and health care providers. I think it’s time our legislators got some of this training as well.
I wasn’t completely surprised at the NC legislators, they are primarily white males of a certain age, education, and religion and they tend to behave with a mob mentality governed by their demographic, but I was totally unprepared for the number of my friends who have come out in support of this legislation. I get that they are buying into the “save our women and little girls” thing, but come on, is anyone thinking this thing through? The facts about molestation do not validate this legislation. The whole save our women and children argument also predicates on the assumption that the LGBT community is populated by child molesters and that is just insulting and uninformed. Come on, really?
90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. Maybe I should state this statistic again: 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. The horrifying fact is that, given the statistics, at least a few of my Facebook friends [sadly maybe more] are likely to have a child or children who has/have recently been abused and they don’t even know it. This abuse was most likely perpetrated by someone they trusted. This is what people should be up in arms about. Let’s do something to lower this statistic.
There are over 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in this country. These people know the truth. This type of thing rarely happens in a public restroom, if ever. If, it does, it’s most likely perpetrated a caregiver.
One of the best ways to protect children is to minimize opportunity. That means limit times when your child is in isolated one-on-one situations with adults or other youth. In my experience, most parents either go to the bathroom with their kids or wait outside the door.
What about your sons? We are far more likely to read about men dressed like men who go into the men’s room and expose themselves to little boys or try to touch them. Happens all the time. There is a safeguard: it’s called supervision.
Trust me, I am as suspicious and on the look out for child molesters as you are, I just don’t assume that the LGBT community is posing a significant threat. Ask my children, I gave them detailed and specific education and training on avoiding the threat of molestation.
I have friends who are posting stuff like: “That’s what I’m worried about, some molester guy posing as a transgender person to get into the bathroom.” Let’s walk this one through. Let’s say there’s a guy who wants to molest a child. Is dressing up like a woman to claim transgender privilege the easiest way to do this? Unfortunately, there are many women out there more than willing to allow instant access to their children to boyfriends who they barely know. Easy access to children happens every day outside of bathrooms and in the very homes of the victims.
People seem to have grave concerns about men coming in the ladies room or into the girl’s locker room without this law. I saw a meme of a girl’s locker room with a boy standing in his tightey whiteys while all the girls were in their underwear. That is not even realistic. Here’s the deal. If a transgendered person comes into the girls’ locker room or bathroom, it will be because she identifies as a female and she won’t stand out. She will look like a girl and pee like a girl, and if she has a penis, she most likely will be keeping that under wraps. She just wants to fit in. If you don’t understand it, do some research, watch some movies, read a book.
And, seriously, I am still confused by it all. Are people afraid that LGBT persons are more likely to offend? They are not- research confirms. And, how in the world could this ever be managed and enforced? Are we going to start doing panty checks? What about men who look feminine and women who look kind of masculine? I know women whose husbands look a little girly- what if someone pulls one of them out of the men’s room? Be careful what you wish for, people.
Target came out this week in opposition to the law and in support of the LGBT community saying their bathrooms will remain status quo, meaning, hey folks, you’ve been peeing with transgender folks all along and didn’t even know it. Get over yourselves. And, boom! More backlash from the FB community– people threatening boycotts now. Well, by all means, take it to Wal-mart, home of the most normal and non-threatening shoppers on the planet. LMAO. I am sure this smarts for many, because, well, Target.
Finally, how many people think that criminals follow laws? If there are molesters who want to dress up in opposite sex garb in order to infiltrate a forbidden bathroom and take liberties with some unsuspecting victim, are we to think that a new law will prevent this from happening? Wow, just wow.
Sometimes, you have to look at the greater good. Here, I think the greater good is just loving our fellow human beings, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation and stop confusing differences in gender identity and sexual orientation with pedophilia or a propensity toward molestation.
It wasn’t broke. It didn’t need fixing. Laws should prevent discrimination not sanction it.
We are better than this.
I love this lazy time between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It is the time when I can finally relax and enjoy Christmas. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, time and responsibilities come at me like a loud, fast freight train. I cannot work, run, clean, cook, fast enough… and that holiday train catches up to me when, like a character from a thriller, I finish it all just in the nick of time. By Christmas morning I am bleary-eyed and dizzy with exhaustion. So, this time, this languorous space, is when I catch up on sleep and I eat whatever I want, open a book, shop for a new pair of shoes online with my Amazon gift card, write reviews of the make up received in Birchboxes, and admire my new socks.
This is when I recharge. In the frenzy of preparation for this holiday, I seldom get to truly enjoy it, so this time is Christmas to me. Unfortunately, the rest of the world thinks that Christmas ends on Christmas day. The radio station immediately stops playing holiday music :(. My neighbors throw their naked trees into the street and take down their lights and wreaths. I am saddened by this and I turn to my itunes library to continue my personal holiday right on through to the Epiphany on Jan. 6th [and, honestly, sometimes longer].
This is perhaps my favorite time of year because of the feast of possibility. Saturdays are my favorite days for this reason. They are generally the only day when there are no responsibilities on the calendar, so they dawn bright with possibility. For an eternal optimist, this is the piece de resistance- possibility in all its glittering glory. This time of year, when we put the past behind us, reflect on what went well and what went wrong, and then leave it behind; when we look toward a ribbon of road that twists off into the horizon just ever so slightly.. giving us nothing but miles and miles of hope.
So, I spend these last few days of 2015, mesmerized by the lights on my tree.
This year’s unseasonably warm weather has also found me contemplating the evening sky from Bean’s front porch.
A new year waiting is the best kind of blank canvas. Happy 2016!
I love my kids. Not just my biological ones; the ones I see every day at school- my precious students. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have our days, but they are what makes teaching in NC worth doing. Yesterday, I woke up to stomach pain. Not the run of the mill kind of stomach pain, but the kind that doubles you over. I went to school because we had Special Olympics bowling and it was our last Friday outing to bowling. I teach students with Autism but don’t try to tell me that children with Autism don’t have as much empathy, because they just knew… and they responded. They were by turns kind and attentive and I was getting extra hugs. A couple of them stayed closer than usual. One noticed I was not my usual self and asked what was wrong. I was hurting, but also thinking about how lucky I am to have a job where I get to make a difference and I get back as much or more than I even give.
I have this one student who sometimes seems neglected. She is so sweet and she tries so hard. She is happy to be at school every day. One of the biggest treats of my life has been when my preschool grandson runs into my arms when he sees me yelling “BB!!!” Literally, the atoms fall out the bottom. But I also get this from her. Dalia [not her real name] runs off the bus to me each morning and hugs me. Her face literally lights up to see me. Doing what other job could I get this?
So today, I am feeling pretty lucky, blessed, and grateful. I am thankful I am a teacher of students with Autism. I am thankful for their love, their progress, and the stories and laughter they bring into my life.
If you’ve ever stopped in to this blog before, you know that I frequently talk about what is ailing me or what new diet I [a] want to try or [b] am currently on. When I look back or even think about its totality, I get it; it’s a rather self-absorbed rambling rant, but it’s not really for you, it’s for me…. to keep track of progress, major setbacks or victories, what’s working and what’s not working. It’s only for you if you: share a problem, you stumble upon this blog, and we can help one another in any way. That is why I share in a public forum. I have gained so much knowledge and support through the Internet, I cannot imagine tackling a chronic illness without it. I truly came into my own in my forties and I continue to grow wiser/calmer/happier in my fifties. I was thrown a bit of hardball with the RA diagnosis, but what the heck, it made me forget about menopause. Menopause, smenopause, if I can thrive with Rheumatoid Arthritis, menopause is not even on the radar.
So, a couple of years ago, I lost almost 50 pounds and I was on top of the world. Then someone stole my wings https://kimmstree.com/2014/06/07/maleficent/ and over the next couple of years, I slowly and painfully gained over half of it back. It feels like more since I also lost some lean muscle as I could not walk/zumba/hike/run like I used to. I cannot blame this all on the RA, making unhealthy food choices is a slippery slope that once you begin to slide down seems like a super slide with no stopping mechanism. Sugar and simple carbs are poison to me; I know this. When I eat them, I am medicating with food. I have done this my entire life. My Mother and Grandfather taught me. Food was comfort, food was reward, food was a drug, and food was an ever present focus.
You cannot read about health issues or autoimmunity [I already have at least 2 autoimmune diseases], without learning that our gut is the new center of our health. Hippocrates, was evidently, right all along when he said “all disease begins in the gut.” Our microbiome is as messed up as our planet. I discovered a couple of years ago that gluten and I didn’t get along and I cut it out. It was no picnic in the beginning, but I am used to it now. I have become quite creative with alternative flours and grains, but I know that I am still allergic to something because of persistent rash on my thigh that reacts to my food intake by inflaming and healing in turns. I suspect I may be sensitive to other grains, lignans, dairy, or eggs.
October is an auspicious month for me. It’s my birth month and I have had two successful beginnings on October 6th. October 6, 1999, I stopped smoking and never looked back. October 6, 2013, I began using Take Shape for Life/Medifast and lost almost 50 pounds in 5 short months. So, on Monday October 5th, I began the Autoimmune Protocol. It basically removes anything that might be allergenic or that tends to promote leaky gut for at least 30 days- it is easier to say what I can eat than what I cannot. I can eat fresh unprocessed meats, broths, vegetables that are non legume, and fruits that are non citrus. I cannot have coffee, sugar of any kind, nuts, seeds, or grains, eggs, or dairy. I am allowing myself only one grain and that is a bit of brown rice, and only if the brown rice is soaked, slow cooked in coconut oil, and then refrigerated for 8-12 hours.
I’m on day 5 and I feel more energized already. Seriously, once the sugar is gone for a few days, it no longer has power over me and I feel back in control. I’ll be writing this month to record how this elimination protocol is going and how I reintroduce foods. If you have tried it yourself, I’d love to hear from you or get a link to your blog.