Tuesday, May 31, 2011

longer update...

While it is nice to have the option of updating from my phone...it takes forever to type out blogs! I think I might stick with typing them. It's much faster.
Today is one of the last days of my mom's visit.  It has been wonderful, and bittersweet in an way having her. I was awful the first week, and then went to WV around the same time that I started feeling well, so I haven't gotten to spend much time with her.  She got me back into sewing and, as always, has been an invaluable help.  She is so smart, and knows so much about sewing that I'm sure my whole project would have gone down the drain without her.
So what are we making?  I'm making purses out of jeans!  I will post pictures, and hopefully have them ready to sell soon.  I am still learning and have to put straps in them.  Now I have some deconstructed, I hope to be able to line them, but my origional one won't be lined.  My friend is college had a tote bag made out of a pair of jeans and I've wanted to make something similar ever since.  These ones will be more small purses than totes, but maybe I'll get better and graduate to a whole tote.  The problem is attempting to keep the structure of the bag. Jeans are made to slouch and basically crumple, not stay upright.
I bought my mom a laptop....I've wanted to for awhile. I have felt guilty giving her my cast offs that seem to break, and wanted to do something nice for her. I'm just chalking this one up to her Mother's Day, birthday and Christmas present for the year, and maybe the next two.  My memorial day trip to Best buy was an expensive one. Let's just leave it at that. It was fun though! I went in there knowing exactly what I wanted, and manage to get just that.  The computer tech was trying to talk us out of getting the computer with only 2G of ram b/c it would be 'slow.'  I explained that my parents only got wireless recently, and until then had used dialup for the last 15 years. I think their definition of 'slow' is different, plus my husband is going to change the operating system from windows 7 to XP so it doesn't take up half the RAM.
I had a wonderful wonderful time in wild West Virginia.  Every time I go out there I realize how much I miss my friends and my old life there.  On Saturday I held 3 babies, since all of my friends decided to have kids around the same time (Feb, March and May). Yes, holding all those kids makes my uterus twinge, but I've decided to, at least for the moment concentrate on getting back to school and enjoying going back to learning. I really really can't wait. I miss the classroom.  I miss...learning and being challenged. So, it's only community college, but I did hear the word 'college' in there ;).
I want to do anything religion blog entry about the Baha'i faith, but I am still learning, processing and communing with my experiences.  I love the Baha'i faith, and if I got 'right' with God...meaning believed there was a God, I would love to be called a Baha'i.   More about that later...including perhaps a definition of the Baha'i faith.
I just got up and made my husband a smoothie and see his lovely ironed shirt. I feel like I've done my wifely duties...for which my husband just came and kissed my foot. I <3 him....

Monday, May 30, 2011

New phone

I finally joined the Droid army. I am enjoying my new phone but also being able to blog from my phone and not having to pay for the App like I would have had to on my old iPhone.
My moods are better. Never as bad as they were even completely unmedicated. I'm starting to wonder if I want to take medicine at all or just want to get into therapy. I am at least starting to understand my moods more and see where they are going before I breakdown. I can tell my husband my feelings in words instead of yelling or blaming him. Maturity who would have thought.
I had an awesome time in WV this past weekend and was able see many of my friends even if only for a short period of time.
Back to sewing with my mom. I promise pictures shortly!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

End of Funkdom

The day I wrote my last post I gave up on the abilify. It was ruining my moods, and life. I took a celexa and went to bed. I woke up a different person.  For the last 4 days I have been myself again, happy, energetic, motivated, compromising and not constantly pissy. My emotions are rational and match the situation.

While taking Abilify none of those things were true.  For the entire week I didn't clean my house (not me at all), had no energy, no motivation and was an uncompromising bitch.  I was the worse, my husband says, that I have been in the entire time he knew me. I am not sure if the medicine threw me into a 'mania' as the doctor wishes to describe it (the unreasonable anger is considered an up vs. down) or if it was the phentermine and then exacerbated by the Abilify. Either way, this first medicine attempt--unmitigated failure. 

It is here that I need to insert a huge thanks to my mom and husband. My mom that drove all this way to see her daughter and I couldn't be nice to save my life.  I just wanted to sleep, not clean and sit on the couch.  Thank you guys for putting up with me.  I'm so glad that I can lean on such awesome people.  

What do I do now?  Where does this lead me? The medicine that isn't supposed to work on me, is the only thing that DOES seem to work on me, and it works fast. So I went back to the doctor this week and actually took some notes, which of course I now can't find.  One thing I do remember her saying which made me wonder more about the diagnoses her asking my husband and I which was worse--my depression or my anger. He answered my depression, saying he worried that I would hurt myself.  I answered the opposite, "My anger," I said. "I can't control it."

The doctor replyed that this is exactly why she thinks that I am bipolar--that the ups (the anger) and the downs (the depression) must be treated equally.  That they are both valid symptoms of the same disorder. Do I believe her? I don't know.  She prescribed me a different medicine (Geodone I believe) which I may, or may not take.  I cannot describe how much I hate the pharmaceutical roulette game.  What will this next medicine do to me? What side effects will it have? Will it do irrevicable damage to me?

When I expressed my worries about the side effects of anti psycotics vs. anti depressants, the Doctor basically said that every drug has side effects. Yeah, I get that, but these ones seems more significant.  What do you think?

What do I do next? I plan on seeking a second opinion.  Maybe I will go back to my psyciatrist in Virginia whom I saw before I moved.  I do want to find a therapist that will help me learn coping skills to deal with the anger, and the depression, when it arrises.  If this diagnoses is correct, then it will allow us to have the tools in hand to deal with things like post partum depression better. If it isn't correct...then I don't want to take medicine that will turn me into a zombie. 

This week I also got my sonogram, and blood draw.  The woman preforming the sonogram thinks that I have at least some PCOS. I saw at least 7 'blobs' where my ovary was on one side.  The multitudes of blood tests (6 vials people!) will tell the rest.  Who knows, maybe once I get my hormones evened out, or even just my blood sugar, many of my other symptoms will disappear. 

Here is to a happy, healthy, wonderful life.  Right now...I'm going to snuggle a baby. I'm having a wonderful time with my friends out in WV. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm sorry...Thank you.

I'm sorry....
I'm sorry if I'm really grouchy. I can't get out of this funk.
I'm sorry if I am really sensitive.  Right now it is a lot worse than it usually is.
I'm sorry if I don't call you when you ask me to. I detest talking on the phone but I love skpying and texting. I promise--I want to hear from you, all of you.
I'm sorry if I take something you say the wrong way. I am learning patience.
I'm sorry if I forget to do something that you ask me to do. My memory sort of sucks.
I'm sorry if I'm tired and not interested in doing stuff.  I do want to spend time with you, and knowing you care makes all the difference.
I'm sorry if my house isn't clean enough. I can't muster up enough energy.
I'm sorry that I'm not showing you a good time while you visit.  I still love you.
I'm sorry that even though I want nothing more than to show you how much I love you, all I can do is criticize.
I'm sorry I'm so damn critical.
I'm sorry if I'm mean to you.  If it make it any better--I'm a heck of a lot meaner to myself.
I'm sorry that I can't think of something to write in an email to you--I really do want to hear from you and know how you are doing.
I'm sorry for leaving you. I miss you a lot.
I'm sorry I can't get out of this funk.  I WILL seek help...I will not stop trying until I find medicine that works for me and a note for the people over the years have told me that depression is just in your head and not a disease?  You can suck it.  No seriously, live for an hour, a day, a week in this dark depressing place where you can't control how you act or feel and you would never be so cruel as to tell something that they are just too weak to fight depression.  I'm not sorry for being rude to you.

Thank you....
Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for leaving me messages
Thank you for sending me cards in the mail with cute stamps.
Thank you for giving me a shoulder to cry on.
Thank you for doing my dishes when I can't get up.
Thank you for not judging me, not hating me, not criticizing me back.
Thank you for staying home and giving up a good parking spot because you would rather talk to me than leave annoyed or angry.
Thank you for your patience, kindness and never ending love.
Thank you for not letting me insult myself.

Thank you for propping me up.  I am nothing without the amazing people around me.  These past weeks have been a struggle, but at the same time have been a time of compassion and encouragement as I have shared my journey.  Thank you. All of you.  Yeah, you too.

And thank you for kitties that love me (or at least tolerate being  squeezed)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The grouch is here to stay

Apparently my grouchiness is here to stay.  Harumph I say to you!  I don't really see ANY difference with these meds except for getting the hiccups every day (today only one sad hiccup), having jack energy during the day and feeling like I've been run over by a mack truck every morning.  Struggling to awaken in the morning is an understatement. Someone that doesn't drink heavily shouldn't feel like they have a hangover every....single...morning.  On top of that, I'm still not NICE.  I'm generally a nice person but lately I've been just...mean.  This medicine isn't working for me. I didn't want to take it, I'll admit that but I am not having luck with it working either which is reinforcing my previous thoughts that this medicine isn't for me.

Medicine aside...I've been attempting to be creative.  I made strawberry shortcakes for dinner--I will post the recipe tomorrow and have been working on tote bags made out of jeans. I need to hit up a thrift store and buy some skinnier people's jeans though because with my fat ass involved they look more like an envelope when I'm done.  I'll post pictures...eventually. I'm going to have to teach myself how to line my first pair tomorrow, after braving the sewing machine again long enough to sew in handles.  My real problem is that leaning over the sewing machine is hell on my back.  I have water aerobics tomorrow that my mom and I are going to.  I'm excited to get out with her, but not looking forward to waking up in the morning.

Okay...happier post forthcoming, eventually.  I have a doctors appointment this week and this time, my husband will be by my side. My forever and bestest supporter.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I have really been struggling since my last post.  I was on a downswing before I went to the doctor and since she took me off of the SSRI's that I would use to get out of depressive states, I can't seem to get out of this funk.
Last week I was prescribed abilify. I could go on a rant about how I detest taking new to market drugs with no generic (only $588 dollars before insurance!), or how the side effects (increase risk of death!) scare me shitless, but really I'm fighting the whole 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!' aspect of this diagnoses.  I know that typical depression meds work for me. I had been taking them on and off for the last decade, and it was my own negligence of remembering, or wanting to take a pill that probably led to 99% of failure that I may have had with them.  Since I know that I needed something, and I don't really like feeling like an evil witch, on edge and ready to snap at the first person to look at me, I sucked it up and got the abilify.  Abilify...how I flipping hate thee.  How can I say that after one day? I haven't slept...all flipping night.  I like, no love and treasure my sleep.  I do NOT like laying down at 10:30, being awakened around 11 by my husband's snoring, and then falling asleep, waking up, falling asleep waking up, fall....okay you get the picture, for the next 4 hours to just finally give up at 2:30 am and come downstairs to watch Glee.  I love Glee, but I'm just not a fan of 3am.  Hell..I'm not even TIRED anymore.  Let's see what other fantastic side effects that I get from a medicine that I don't think is right for me.

Thank you to everyone that wrote to me, both publicly and privately after my last post.  It still blows my mind when people call me because they read my blog, or the first thing some relative that I don't frequently talk to says is "I read your blog!"  While it is hard, feeling like I frequently have to censor myself, I do truly enjoy writing here.

I go on Tuesday to have lots of blood drawn and have a sonogram to test for PCOS.  If you haven't had one of those lovely procedures done, I'll just let it surprise you down the line. There is nothing like having to drink 30oz of water in an hour and not be allowed to pee!

This past week I have done lots of activities. It has been a struggle to go, but having people there that I know and care about helps a huge deal.  On Monday we tried out water Zumba.  I was disappointed that it wasn't a difficult work out. In fact, my water aerobics with the old people earlier in the day is usually a lot easier. I'm oscillating between not wanting to take it again, or just do two classes on Monday.  On Tuesday we had book club.  I enjoy Water for Elephants so much that I...don't want to see the movie.  I worry they will butcher a beautiful story.  On Wednesday was yoga.  We make an intention at the beginning of the class.  Mine was "to be present."  I wanted to be there, to enjoy and feel each pose and not spend the whole class wondering when it was over. I think that the rainy weather just got everyone down.  My mom showed up late Wednesday night, so yesterday we ran some errands (because nothing says 'hi mom! like a visit to Costco) and todayyyy we have a charity bingo game tonight. I'm really looking forward to 'bingo for boobies!'  I have boobies, and as it turns out, I like bingo as well (even if I'll never win anything).  As you have probably guessed, it is a charity event.

Here is to getting out of a funk! *raises water bottle*

What did you do this last week? Are you feeling down because of all this rain?

Friday, May 13, 2011

A week of medical mayhem

This past week has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me.  First my husband and I went to talk to my gynecologist about trying to have a baby.  The news wasn't exactly good.  She thinks I might have poly cystic ovarian syndrome which can make getting pregnant pretty difficult.  While I knew about the disorder I didn't think that I had it because I didn't have a lot of the symptoms that people with it exhibited.   I go back next week for more testing to find out exactly what is going on, but for the mean time our hopes of starting a family have been put on hold.  If that didn't break my heart my doctors appointment today did.

I've written before about my decade long struggle with depression. It is something that is always with me, sometimes feeling like it is going to swallow me whole, but sometimes seemingly to lie dormant under the surface.  The medicine that I have been taking for the last few years wasn't working. I thought that the dose just wasn't correct, so I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist.  If you have never been to a psychiatrist before, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out.  They can't draw blood to determine if you have depression, so they need to make you answer the same question 5 times in 5 different ways to determine where you are coming from.  The first sheet asked, "have you ever at any point..." followed by questions like 'increased talking and rapid speech, been excessively hyper, had difficulty concentrating, get in arguments/fights for no reason....down a list.  I started to get worried as I checked 'yes' for almost every question, except for irresponsibly spending money. I was thinking to myself that this sounds like bipolar disorder, but some of the symptoms had never been brought up and didn't seem as severe as what I thought bipolar disorder was.  Anyways, I was hoping the sheet was just a quick assessment for something like ADD until I looked at the bottom and saw that it was printed by a drug company as a bipolar disorder check list.  I sort of tried to play all of the yes's off by writing that it seemed to generally happen when I drank too much caffeine or took phentermine.  Nah, I'm fine...I just need a refill for a different anti depressant and I'll be fine.
I get in her office and we start talking and she goes through the list and makes me tell her if I've ever felt any of these without chemical assistance. I realize...I have. In fact, I've felt or experienced most of them at some point.  I started to feel my stomach drop as I knew what she was going to say next. I don't have depression.  I'm bipolar.  I am bipolar.  My eyes are starting to tear as I type this, admitting to myself, and the world that I have a disorder that I have attempted to run away from.  I was okay with have depression, hell most people seem to these days. But bipolar? Isn't that this super serious disease? Don't people do insanely stupid things like spend their life's saving and have sex with prostitutes?  Yes, some people do things like that when they are manic, she explained but bipolar isn't about how high your manic episodes are, it is simply that you have them at all.  The analogy she used is that having depression is like walking along and occasionally having the bottom fall out. Being bipolar is not only having the bottom fall, but also having holes in the ceiling.

I apparently don't have manic symptoms but instead a less severe type called hypomanic symptoms. She gave me a paper that listed some. I have some of these, but not all of them....
-You cannot stop talking often fast loud or excited (umm...yeah, that's me people--I talk too much even when a voice in my head is going "STFU!!)
-You are more active than usual, often without a purpose (I generally throw myself into doing some chores when I feel like this or jump up and down a bunch and then crash)
-You need instant gratification, attention and approval (to some extent)
-you are quickly irritable (sometimes for absolutely no reason...again, sorry hubby)
-you quickly show displeasure (sorry if I've done this to you)
-you exaggerate and overdo all behaviors (I don't think I do that...)
-You are more hostile and argumentative when you don't get what you want
-You wear brighter colors than usual (I found this fascinating, and true!)
-You spend more money and give more gifts (also totally true)
-You write more letters, make more phone calls and give more advice
-You travel more
-You don't care so much about the rights and feelings of others
-You enjoy taking more risks

Another thing I learned is that things like my fear of going new places, knocking on my neighbors door to meet them, doing things by myself isn't normal either. I apparently also have social anxiety disorder. I think my social anxiety and crippling, at times, fear of judgement and rejection has offset some of the ruder qualities of the bipolar disorder so basically I'm not a complete asshole to strangers (only the people I love...sorry guys).  I think of the trip that I took to Spain in college and how much I regretted not doing more on my own, and now I understand why I kept putting it off, and why I would rather stay home and stay in places that I had been and was comfortable with.  I understand why, while I suck at routines (apparently having bipolar disorder can make having routines difficult because you never know how you are going to feel at any given time) I need things MY way so that I can feel in control of the situation and not get anxious.

How does it feel to realize that you've been misdiagnosed for the last decade? Pretty shitty actually. The horrible part of it is that I am in the vast majority of people that are diagnosed. Most people go a DECADE before they are diagnosed.  One of the reasons that people aren't diagnosed more is that people don't go to the doctor when the feel good--they go because they are depressed. They don't tell their doctor about the side effects above.  One of the reasons I was so terrified of being diagnosed as bipolar was that the medicine, while better now than it was even a decade ago, is pretty heavy hitting.  Anti psychotics and mood stabilizers have a lot more side effects than Prozac.  My doctor wrote me a prescription for a mood stabilizer, a very low dose.  She wants to see me again in two weeks.  I will try it and see if it helps, or harms. I hate playing the Russian roulette of medicine, but at least I have learned in the last couple of years that I can live without medicine.  I'm also going to find a therapist. I've realized that I have learned quite a few good coping mechanisms, and maybe in time I can learn to live without medication.  Knowing I'm bipolar will also help if, when we do have kids, I have post partum depression.

I don't know completely how I feel about this so far. While a lot of the symptoms describe me, having this label doesn't define me and frankly I thought a lot of those things up there were 'normal' before now.  A couple of weeks ago I was watching glee and someone said "your illness is not who you are supposed to be. It is keeping you from who you are supposed to be."  Depression, bipolar, social anxiety disorder aren't ME.  They are a part of who I am, but knowing more about them is going to be how I can LIVE with them and be who I've always wanted to be.   I have dealt with so much in the last 8 years. I have dealt with so much--successfully and I think, no I know I can deal with this.  I have to wonder how this diagnoses would have helped me as as teenager though, or if having to live through it and learn from my mistakes has made me better equipped to deal with this disease.

Please note: I am not a doctor or a therapist and the opinions and thoughts in this blog are mine.  If you think you have bipolar disorder or any mental illness, please please please get professional help.  

I drove home, stopped by the mail and drove up to my house.  What I saw there both infuriated and scared me to my core.  It was Henry, our strictly inside cat sitting on our front porch, our door open.  Where the hell is my husband? Is he lying inside hurt? My mind immediately flickered to the creepy scam artist that tried to con me into buying magazines yesterday. Did the guy come back? What I did next came as instinct--I didn't even think about it. I pushed down the horn for a good five seconds.  Henry jumped 3 feet in the air, and ran inside, followed closely by my cat, who was hiding behind the neighbors bushes.  My cat has NEVER been outside.  The only time I tried to take him anywhere outside of our porch was a misguided attempt at teaching him to walk on a leash.  He crawled up me and lay in a trembling mass in my arms until I went back in.   I slammed my car into park, grabbed my bag and ran inside yelling for my husband.  Thankfully he was alive, although after I yelled at him, he might have rethought that. He came in, grabbing our recycling bin on the way and somehow forgot to latch the door.  Our cats had been asleep on the couch when he came in, but at some point got up to investigate, and seeing an open door meandered out.  We've been letting them out on the back porch, which is two stories up and they can't get off of, because the weather is nice but after this little 'adventure' I'm rethinking how wise it is to allow their fear of the outdoors to diminish in any way.

Tomorrow is our housewarming party.  I know that even if only a few people turn up, I am in a place of love surrounded with friends and the best husband ever.  I don't think I could ask for anything more than that, although I wouldn't mind some sunshine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A series of randomness tied together with more randomness

I've been suffering from a writers block of sorts.  I'm not ready to write another faith blog entry. I wrote about high school and my introduction to Islam in college.  Next on my journey is meeting the little girl that I nannied for and learning about the Baha'i faith.  Give me some time to think that through. This entry seems to just be a brain dump of all that is on my brain.  I feel like I need to write, but unusually my brain isn't chock full of blog ideas.  Before I go to bed I generally can't stop thinking of blog ideas.  I decided today to follow the advice of the girl that sat next to be in first grade, who told me to 'start writing, and it will come to you and you will keep writing.' Best advice I think I've ever gotten.

I realized recently that I was buying far too many groceries for the two of us, because our old house guest was eating more than I realized, and my husband is eating a lot less than he used to.  I have really had to adjust how much I buy, and try to plan meals. I have also had to learn what I like. Odd concept I know--being 26 and not really knowing how to shop for yourself.  I'm great at buying for other people, but I struggle when it comes to what I want and will eat.  I have realized that I need some convenience food.  I try to keep the food in my house as healthy as possible, but at the same time I need some things I can just grab and eat.  Trader Joe's cereal bars are currently a big thing. When I don't eat, my blood sugar plummets and I become a bitch on wheels. It isn't pretty. If you don't believe me, ask my husband.  He'll throw a cereal bar at me, and get me a cup of juice and tell me to eat and then we can talk.  I also love Chobani yogurt. It is the only Greek yogurt I like.  I know fage is better, but I don't like it as much.  I know I was making my own yogurt, and enjoyed it to a degree but *sigh* I am more likely to eat the Chobani  yogurt. I just gave up and realized this.
I have this problem of buying food that I think is healthy, and feeding it to my husband and then realizing that I don't want to eat any of it, and it goes bad.  Bad me...very bad me. So...had to reassess what I like and this time I went to the store I did that. I bought yogurt, and grapes and bananas and cereal bars. All things that are healthy, quick and easily eaten.

On to a completely different topic...
When I started writing a 'blog' it was on live journal back in the 90's.  It was just that, a journal.  It wasn't a 'blog', but more of a diary. I was writing to and for myself.  This isn't so.  I write about myself, and perhaps my writing has a cathartic affect on me, but it is is intended for other people to read. A blog is not a diary. A diary is meant to be read by one person, and one person only.  This is why, despite my perverse love of peeking into other people's lives through their online journals, I don't want to cross that line.  As open and truthful as I am about me, and my experiences none of us live in a vacuum.  I refuse to compromise the privacy of people who don't want their business splashed across the internet. Nothing specific brought this up except for reading blogs that have gone down in flames after the writer thought that people would agree with their offbeat theories on child rearing and the readers thought that calling Child Protective Services was a better option. I wrote my faith series because it helped me, and as it turned out, other people.  I didn't write it because I wanted to controversial or call out Christians or Muslims.  I'll do that later (beware fundamentalists).

And now I switch gears again, courtesy of ADD!
My husband and I planned about a month ago to have a housewarming party this weekend. I had all of these  people that I wanted to invite, since I lived in this area before and can't wait to show off my new house.  I was disappointed when only a few of my friends RSVP'ed while the vast majority (think like 50 people) didn't.  It was just another (probably irrational) blow to my ego this week. I'm just nostalgic for our awesome parties back in WV when we knew everyone that would, could and wanted to come before we even planned them, and without trying could get 10-15 people over for rockband or card games.  I'm excited to have this party this weekend, I'm just a ball of angst right now.  Yeah, that sums it up well...a ball of angst.  I think laying in bed or the tub and reading more of Water for Elephants: A Novel is called for.  We are reading it for bookclub, so of course I started it last night (to have it read in 5 days.  Luckily I can read quickly, and I am enjoying it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Losing My Religion...Part 4, Introduction to Islam

Note: This blog entry took awhile to write because it is a hard subject for me to write about, but most of all organize into some sort of cohesive and easily followed story.

I attended a Catholic college that had very strong roots in Catholic social justice.  It was taught and lived, especially by the order of nuns that founded the school and still lived on campus.  I joined the choir as soon as I got to college and dived right into campus life including Campus Ministry. We were all required to take a freshman seminar, and mine was something to do with religion and social justice.  One of the things that we studied in that class was a feminist re-reading of the creation story.  I'd never really questioned the validity of the bible before that class.  I started wondering who had written the Bible, what their motivations were, and how veracious a book 2000 years ago was required to be.

Around the same time that I started questioning the validity of the bible, I met a Muslim women and her two sisters that were all students at my college.  They were all smart, outgoing and religion girls that were able to speak well about their faith.  While I had lived in a pretty diverse place when I was a kid, when we moved to the Midwest, we were in the middle of the great sea of white people.  There were mostly Protestants, some Mexican Catholics and Amish (who are definitely Christians)  so religious minorities were hard to find in my neck of the woods. When I was in high school I had to do a project on Islam, and I had a really difficult time gathering information outside of what I could find online.  I asked my youth group leaders about Islam, and Muhammad and was told that Muslims didn't worship the same God as Christians,  and a variety of other things that weren't true. They were basically the same unIslamic propaganda that has been floating around for years. How were they so sure in their knowledge?  One of them had taken a class on it at a conservative Christian college. Sorry, but I decided to research more on my own after that, realizing that sometimes adults aren't always right.

My new Muslim friends were perfectly happy to answer my questions, point me to great resources and talk to me about any aspects of the religion that I had questions on, and questions I had.  Since two of the sisters worked in the cafeteria, we would sit for hours chatting

I'd never really questioned the existence of God. I had spoken to God for years. I guess you could call it praying, but I would just drive in my car and have conversations with God. It helped me to think things out, to talk them out. Since I didn't, at the time question my monotheism I started seeking out, in my mind, the truest form of monotheism.  I was becoming disillusioned by the many things that I perceived as being between me and God in the Catholic church.  From the saints, to Jesus, I was confused why we didn't just pray to God.
Islam is the worship of one God (same God worshiped by Christians!). They believe that Judaism came about, people screwed it up so Jesus came (as a Prophet) and then when people screwed that up, Muhammed was sent as a messenger and Prophet to the people of the world.  Muslims believe that the Torah, Bible and Qur'an in their purest forms are the same, and that it was mankind's meddling that changed them.  Muslims believe that the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammed by the angel Gabriel and then written down, which was ordered into the Qur'an.  They believe that the Qur'an is the unadulterated revelation from God.

As someone that was constantly questioning the Bible, this resonated with me.  If this was truly revealed to Muhammed from God, could this be the purest form of monotheism?  To become a Muslim, one makes 'shahadah' or a profession of faith, which states "I bear Witness that there is no god, but God and I bear witness that Muhammed is the Prophet (messenger) of God.' I wrote down the shahadah was was carrying it around in my pocket for days, constantly questioning what I should do, constantly praying about it.

I already easily believed the first part, but growing up as a white girl in the US after 9/11, the second part was a little more difficult.  How did I reconcile my life, with that of a Muslim?  In short, I never managed to. My problem...I never found the happy medium. I knew I couldn't go all of the way to conservative and leave my friends and culture behind. It wasn't even fair to ask that of me. I wasn't willing to fundamentally change who I was, and I'm not sure I am even able to.  I just wanted to be a better person, a person closer to God. My story has a million threads and offshoots, and maybe I can examine some more of them in the future in more detail.  Now I think I am just trying to give a basic overview of how I learned about Islam.

There is a strong evangelizing movement in Islam.  This 'how to give shahadah in 10 minutes' movement's goal isn't to have people know as much about Islam as possible before conversion, but to convert first and learn later.  I could write an entire book on how wrong this is.  It becomes all about externalities, about how quickly a woman will don the hijab, stop eating pork, talking to men, and less about learning about the faith and Islamic jurisprudence and making informed decisions.  I feel that I while I freely made the choice to convert, I was so naive.  I was 19, impulsive and emotional. I wanted to belong somewhere and fill that void that I was searching to fill and I thought that this religion had all the answers.I think it was my expectations that led to my ultimate failure as a Muslim.  I was searching for faith, and what I found was religion. Human influence and fallible religion.  Another  factor that led to my inevitable 'failure' of sorts was the really conservative nature of the mosque that I was taken to.  It was very conservative, which I am not and too obsessed with outer signs of religiosity. I remember being in tears after hearing a lecture about how women that don't wear hijab 'are going to hell. I don't know how long but it is a certainty.' I think that was the day that I sort of just gave up.

Last night I finally got around to listening to the NPR's Lifting the veil (http://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135413427/lifting-the-veil) about Muslim women that wore the hijab and their decisions to stop.  Many of those reasons were why I too stopped wearing hijab. I felt judged, and like I was judging those that didn't wear it.  I wore it for a month and a half, starting right before Ramadan and then stopping 6 weeks later. My hair looked AMAZING by the way afterwards. I never dressed ridiculously immodestly (okay, I probably showed too much cleavage when I was in Spain but it was 120 degrees out) so I didn't stop wearing it because I wanted to wear tank tops and shorts but I didn't want to be a walking representative of Islam.  I didn't live up to my own expectations in that regard.  I wish I was stronger, and had more faith, but when I wasn't good enough, I did nothing but beat up on myself.

This post seems negative, and maybe I needed to get the negative out before I can talk about the beauty. I loved, and still love, a lot of things about Islam.  I find comfort, and beauty in the prayer.  I find a simple joy in putting my head to the group and seeking my creator. I love the faith, the sufi poetry, listening to the Qur'an recited in the singsong Arabic, and learning Arabic.  Islam and learning about it fundamentally changed my life. I studied Arabic and Middle Eastern history in school (classes that normally wouldn't have been offered) and rather than going to clubs and drinking, spent many weekends at my friend's house learning about Islamic history, Qur'an and proper Arabic pronunciation.  I spent a ton of time at my Pakistani friends house learning about the culture, language and religion and how they all come together.

I don't regret the experiences that I had. I don't regret everything that I learned--how can I regret knowledge?   I am not a scholar, but try to learn in everything that I do.  If my experiences with Islam were different, perhaps my life would be completely different now.  Every experience that I have had has brought me to this point in my life, and since I am blissfully happy now, I can't regret any of them.

Friday, May 6, 2011


While I am enjoying writing my religion series, it takes awhile for me to digest, think through and write each entry. I am attempting to condense years of my life into a few hundred words.  I never expected the interest that these entries would bring, and thank everyone that has read.  Today I am breaking from the series to blog about learning to live a healthy lifestyle.

A couple of weeks ago I read this quote from one of my favorite bloggers about consistency;
"It’s not what we do occasionally that makes the difference. It’s what we do consistently."  Ronisweigh

See that is the crux of my problem. I, like many Americans am great at doing something one...maybe two times.  Getting that gym membership on a getting fit high, and then using it like twice.  Yeah, been there done that.  My problem however, is doing things over...and over...and over again.  You'd think that it would be easier for me to do that since I love routines but I have always struggled.  I think I am finally overcoming some of that.

My meetup group goes to water aerobics on Mondays, and three of us go to yoga on Wednesdays.  It is a lot more difficult to cancel if you are accountable to other people.  Having that accountability and routine weekly has helped me shape my routine for the rest of the week.

While I was out of town my husband started to lose weight.  He started being more aware of what he was eating, and when, and also I think was able to have his thyroid medicine fixed.  He has lost at least 20 pounds and either his doctor was hitting on him, or he really does look better when she said 'you're looking really good.'  Mwahaha I'm so getting in trouble for putting that out here, but I really can see a difference.  His face is looking slimmer, and his stomach is looking...well, deflated.  I'm really proud of him, and I try to help motivate him daily.

After reading and thinking about Roni's blog entry, I decided to do 10 minutes of physical (aerobic) activity a day.  Yes, water aerobics and yoga counted, but what about the other 5 days? I've gone on walks with my husband, or worked on the elliptical to get my 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.  If I felt like it, I'd frequently go over. The one day I 'cheated' I walked around the grocery store for almost an hour. I didn't sweat, but at least I was moving. That is the goal--to CONSISTENTLY exercise and integrate more movement into my every day life.

This week I'm doing 15 minutes. After I had surgery in December and wasn't allowed to work out at all for a couple of weeks, I lost all of my stamina and my motivation. We'd just moved, I didn't have a trainer, my back hurt ect. All valid reasons but excuses never the less.  I'm working on getting back that stamina and every time I get on the elliptical and that extra 5, even 10 minutes isn't too difficult, every time I can stretch a little more in yoga, run a little faster in 5 feet of water, I see that stamina coming back.  I need to get in shape, I need to get healthy.  No just for me, but for my family.

My husband and I decided that while you are never completely 'ready' to have a baby, that we were as ready as we were going to get.  About 6 months ago we actively started 'trying' to have a baby.  So far, no go.  All the baby books point to one thing.  I'm fat. My cycle isn't always regular, and I'm not even sure I am ovulating. What can I do? Besides go to a doctor and get checked out (that appointment is next week) I can start this routine and start getting into a routine that will lead to a healthy life style.

Every person that has lots a ton of weight using sparkpeople.com has made a healthy lifestyle change. It isn't about a miracle drug, or surgery, or all the sudden running and exercising for a short period of time.  We need to make changes every day. Those little changes lead to big ones.  We need to make exercise, healthy eating and learning about nutrition an integral part of our life.  If I don't, I'll never get off this yo-yo weight gain/loss and may never be able to have a baby.  Rather than trying to go all out in the beginning and losing motivation two weeks in, I want to build up a routine and stick to it. Wish me luck on my journey. I wish you luck on yours!

What is your routine?
How do you integrate activity into every day activities?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Losing My Religion...Part 3

During my senior year of high school I got my first car. It was actually my Christmas present. My mom bought it for a couple hundred bucks off of her best friend.  It was an '85 Toyota Carolla and you couldn't fill the gas tank more than half way because there was a leak. No lie--that car was awesome. I loved him...and named him Wilber.  Wilber gave me more freedom than I had ever had before.  No longer dependant on rides from my parents and/or friends I was free to explore and attend different churches on my own.  Churches to attend weren't hard to find. Most of the kids that I went to school with were pretty conservative, religiously and politically.  There was a different protestant denomination on every corner. It seems religion is the only thriving business there nowadays.

I started 'church hopping' going to a different church most weekends, asking friends if I could go to services with them.  I realized that the fundamentalist non-denominational church my friend attended wasn't for me when I looked over the seat in front of me at a children's book that said that the 'dinosaurs died out because they couldn't fit on Noah's ark."  That did it for me. My parents were pretty free with allowing us to explore, but becoming too conservative is a cardinal sin in my family.  My mom didn't let me go back to that church after I told her about the book. We like evolution in my household.  When I started reading the 'Left Behind' series I learned the term 'take with a grain of salt.'  

I never realized how many church denominations start with M...Let's see...

There was also the Lutheran Church and a bunch of others.  It's been awhile. I used to be able to rattle this list of 15 different churches off.
I really enjoyed going to the Mennonite church with family friends of ours. I would sell my mom's jam at the farmers market to raise money for my mission trip to Nicaragua and she would teach me about her faith and her family.  They don't use instrumentation in their church, but everyone sings joyfully.  My friend was teaching a first grade Sunday school class and I got to learn about Nebakanezer.  I realized around then that I didn't know very much about the Old Testament and started reading the Bible more on my own.

I've been to two different Mormon churches and rather enjoyed myself. This probably doesn't come as a surprise but I will ravenously study languages and religions in my free time. My friend had borrowed the Encyclopedia of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and we read for hours.  It was so similar, and so different.  I found the use of old English quaint and adorable. I didn't really form an opinion then, and in no way was pressured to convert or join the church.  Everyone was polite and it was a good experience overall.

I loved Praise and Worship music. I have always loved music, and felt like it spoke to my soul.  I started around this time to phase out 'modern' music and listen to classical, oldies and Christian rock. I was sick of all the negative messaging that I was exposed to, and friends turned me on to some music that, while still maintaining the musicality, didn't have the negative lyrics.

My friends attended the local Methodist church, so in the end I spent more time there and involved with their youth group programs than any else.  When the youth group started discussing going to Nicaragua on a mission trip, I knew I had to be there.  My aunt and uncle have worked in Nicaragua most of my life as linguists and I wanted to see what I had heard about first time.  I wanted an adventure before starting college in the fall.  A lot of my senior year was spent trying to gather the money for this trip, and getting all of the necessary shots.  There were way too many shots required for this trip.  Never let them do an immuno globulin Hep something shot on you. It is incredibly painful, and in the ass. I couldn't sit, seriously.  We ended up having to drive hours to find places that actually HAD the vaccinations on hand as well.

My trip to Nicaragua was amazing.  I was a girl that had never seen the face of poverty any closer than a television screen.  Seeing it up close makes you reassess how you spend your money, and live your life.  I think that my experiences there helped solidify my desire for social justice, and continue to study US foreign policy in Central America.  See, it all ties in--I swear.  It was in Nicaragua that I saw the roll that religion played in peoples lives; giving hope to the hopeless.  If you have nothing, and are promised everything if you live a good and virtuous life, then you take it.  If you have nothing, no hope and you are given hope, a goal and a community then you do everything you can to keep that hope strong.  I saw the hope.

There was a teenager named Cesar that I met. His 'job' was to take care of his young cousin while her mother was selling goods in the market.  She was a toddler and likes to nap in my arms every afternoon.  Cesar had a rough life, everyone did in the shanty town that we were working in.  He sniffed glue, like many of his peers, because it made the hunger pangs go away and being high felt good.  Parents, starved themselves, with starving children would let them sniff glue to stop their crying out of hunger.  They quickly became addicted, rotting their brains as starvation rotted their bodies.  Cesar came to the work site, where we were adding an addition to a church, every day bringing his cousin.  On the last day we were here, the daughter of the missionary in charge of us sat down and talked and prayed with him.  In the end, he accepted Christ as his savior, and at that point we were all crying. Cesar did change his life. He joined the church and became an active member. Religion, finding God in his life changed it.  I get that, I get that blind faith in his life. But I really do think that it was him finding hope in a hopeless world.  Him finding love where there was no love.

It was this societal order that Marx was commenting on when he said 'Religion is the opiate of the masses.'  If people are content believing that if they suffer now for something better, they are less likely to revolt and fight the system.   I didn't go because I wanted eternal life, but because I think that it is our duty as humans to help one another.  Call it karma, or guilt over crappy political movements on behalf of my country, but I do truly want to help make this world a better place and when I was a teenager, I was a hell of lot more idealistic than I am now.

I'm going to leave you with the bible verse that summed up my trip to Nicaragua.  When it was originally read to us, I cried because I really thought that this is exactly what we were trying to do.

Matthew 31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Next...on to college