Monday, October 9, 2017

To breathe or not to breathe

‘‘Tis the season of smellies and artificial scents all over the place.  Ugh!!  I dread just stepping out of my scent free zone and into the not so subtle aromas of candles, poupori, sprayed cinnamon sticks and pine cones, smelly floral arrangements of Fall.  Sadly, on top of the everyday bombardment of artificial smells, I am now dealing with the worse two seasons of all—Fall and Winter.  I am tired of being polite or politically correct on this issue, so bear with me while I make my voice (and nose) heard. 

I suffer from extreme chemical sensitivity which is only one of the many annoying symptoms of chronic M.  This symptom is difficult to manage due to the fact I must live in the world and not stay contained in a bubble which is fragrance free.  Unfortunately, if I just wouldn’t have to breathe, I might be better off.   Lol.   All kidding aside, breathing in toxic chemicals which are so offensive is not healthy for anyone.  This is the truth. What ever happened to “natural scents”?  Why do we attach artificial scents to the air filter systems, cleaning products, room deodorizers, etc etc?  Most are completely unnecessary.  The smell of real baked apple and pumpkin pies is sure better than a yankee candle.  Simply placing fresh citrus in bowls works well to add a fresh odor to any environment.  

It seems like I can’t go into stores, office buildings(medical included), public restrooms without potentially entering a mine field.  I find that most store changing rooms smell so badly that I can’t even try on the clothes. I must take them home for that process. Those scents not only trigger an awful M, but I physically get respiratory distress which is another whole level of sick.  And yes, I carry scarves with pure peppermint oil or apply Vick’s vapor rub to my nose.  I certainly do everything to help myself, but sometimes it isn’t enough.  I not only speak for myself, but I am advocating for my fellow sufferers as well.  

If I visit someone’s home I need to ask them ahead of time to please “de-scent” their place.  For my dear friends and family I don’t feel embarrassed but for people whom I do not know, I don’t say anything and then just “hope for the best”.   If their house doesn’t waft with artificial smells, someone undoubtedly will be bathed in strong perfume!  I can’t win.  Even staying for a short time is not really a viable option for me.  It is not that simple. Church can be a disaster zone—- perfumes and incense will send me running for the door.  I can walk in feeling pretty well and leave feeling pretty sick.   

Since chronic M is mostly an invisible illness, how I may look is not a true indicator of how I may actually feel.  Dressing up nicely to appear in public with a smile on my face doesn’t mean I am not bothered by my surroundings and ready to head straight on ino a sick attack.   I do my ever-lovin’ best to participate in every way I can to enjoy life and all its blessings, but my overly sensitive nervous system has different ideas.  If you happen to see me with a strange look on my face with eyes glazed over, you will know I am headed to go down soon.  So, get out of my way!!!  

I kindly ask consideration, tolerance, and understanding of my heightened chemical sensitivity even though it may seem awkward or strange.  Please don’t be offended if I ask you to not wear perfume or give me lotions and soaps for gifts.  It is nothing personal against you. Not at all.  It helps me to navigate my surroundings a bit easier so that I can enjoy stepping outside of my comfort zone.   It would be much appreciated. 
So this year at the Thanksgiving table, please pass the turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, but not the artificial cinnamon pine cones around the centerpiece.   Thank you. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

A leaf of faith

Autumn is upon us, and fairly soon here in New England, our trees and fire bushes will turn glorious colors---golden yellow, crimson red, burnt orange, and finally brown.  As fun as it is to witness and enjoy the ever changing landscape, this means that there is positively no more holding onto summer.  My flip flops definitely give way to my favorite boots, and time marches forward.  Ready or not. 

As with nature's seasons, our personal life seasons are similar.   Some bring unwanted and untimely sadness and suffering, and we tend to want that time to pass over us as quickly as possible.   The hurt and pain and darkness can become very burdensome to bear.   Other seasons fill us with immense joy and ease to breathe.  The light seems to certainly overshadow the dark.  It is only natural that we desire to stay connected and soak up all the gifts of this season.  

I am always learning that whatever season I may currently be walking through at the present, God has in store for me great gIfts of His love and mercy to continue down my path set before me.  I may not understand the "why", but I want to respond with a "yes" to His will.  This isn't always easy by any means.  Currently, God is asking me to really take a "leaf" of faith to trust Him in the waiting.  Patience.  More patience.  

There is always interior growth during any season but certainly more in the difficult ones.  With ease comes a bit of relaxed comfort, but with the cold, dark trying times, sprouts of faith are rooting below the surface.  We just can't see those "fruits" in the waiting from our human perspective.  Only God can. 

My particular seasons of living with chronic M are helping me embrace my faith ever more fervently.  Somehow I go in and out of them like a flowing river, and sometimes I go kicking and screaming like a maniac.   (Ask my hubby and kids)!   

How about you?  What season are you currently traversing?  Are you fumbling and bumbling along your thorny path, or are your feet planted firmly on the ground moving forward with confidence?  

Maybe you are finding it hard to hang on just one more day because the pain seems overwhelming.  I understand, my friend.  I' ve been there.  Don't give up.  Another season of light and beauty is around the corner.  Believe this to be true.  

Let's all take a "leaf" of faith in the Autumn of our lives.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September skies

As the school buses roar up the streets once again, and I hear the giggling of children's voices, I know that Fall has arrrived in some sense of the word.  While the yearly calendar may not officially state its arrival until September 22, the lazy hazy days of summer routines are now replaced with the mad rush of back to school nights, football games, and band performances on the field.  In our particular area since we are a shoreline community, we are bidding farewell to most of the tourists and hello to lots of school activities and getting stuck behind school buses--- especially when it comes to having a time crunch to get to my needed appointments.  Ugh!  It seems we are trading one delay for another.  That's ok.  It is good to take a pause every now and again.

 However, time moves on whether I am ready or not.  

Watching and listening to the younger families go here and there with "concerned" looks on their faces remind me of my younger years toting my own boys around from practically sunrise to sunset.  I was involved in carpools, after school activities, volunteering for what seemed like everything, and prepping for dinner mid afternoon just so a good, hot meal would be ready at different times of the day according to the schedules.  Whew!  Just writing about this tires me!  Some days it is actually hard to imagine that we all survived those challenging but rewarding years.  

This is the time of year that I feel the most in between of sorts.  Living in a beach area is so much fun and has a more "let's stick with summer feel".  I am still enjoying the boardwalk strolls and putting my toes in the cool sand.  There is definitely less sunlight now, so it is quite noticeable that the days are growing shorter.  I feel that all so gentle nudge to eat dinner a little earlier on the porch so that we can quickly clean up and head down to the beach to catch the GORGEOUS September sunsets.  They are magnificent.  God's masterpieces on display.  No other explanations needed.  

During the day the September sky has a unique glow all of its own.  The color is azure with nary a white cloud.  In the late afternoon, the tilt of the setting sun shines at a different angle in my family room. By 4:00pm, it is quite noticeable. 

 Also, the squirrels are scampering about collecting their food stash for the winter.  They are hysterical at times, but when they dig into my potted plants, I am none to happy. I am fascinated at the signs given in nature to help us prepare for the seasonal changes ahead.  

My body is trying to prepare for the upcoming season of Autumn.   However, since I am currently undergoing new treatments for managing my chronic M, I will step forward with more confidence and Hope than in past years.   

How are you facing Fall?  Are you ready for pumpkins, mums, and apple cider donuts?  Do you like the refreshing cool, crisp air? Sweaters and boots? Fading daylight?

For me, I have one foot with a flip flop on firmly planted in summer sand while the other foot is inside my favorite boot firmly planted on Fall leaves.  

Whatever season, just enjoy its gift.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lean in, listen closely, and linger longer

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."  
                  John Lubbock,  The Use of Life

While summertime has a rhythm and flow all of its own which tends towards a lot of "doing"---going on vacations, celebrating friendships over backyard  picnics, entertaining the kids out of school, and maybe attending local baseball games, it is still important to make space for some rest.   Holy Rest.  Slowing down and fully embracing the quieter moments that summertime has to offer can be full of soul refreshment.  It is like sipping a cool, tall glass of fresh iced tea or lemonade while siting on a neighbor's porch and being fully present without an agenda or expectation.   No rushing allowed.  Practicing leaning in and listening closely as if time stands still for a brief, few moments are  cherished.  A spiritual thirst is quenched.  

It always seem like I can hardly wait for the arrival of summer especially after a long, cold and dreary spring up here in New England.  I have my ideas and agendas which are only loosely set in soft sand.  I absolutely love the break in routine and just go with the flow.  That's how we fly at our home currently.  Lots of comings and goings and activity balanced with the need for rest and quiet.  But then before I know it, August is upon us!  Where did the time go?!!  

I still wish for daylight to last past 8:00pm!  Now after we eat dinner, we hurry to clean up the dishes to get to our boardwalk before dark.  That little bit of rushing can sometimes make me feel anxious.  However, I guess that is preparing me for the fall routine.  Wow.  The sunsets this summer have been magnificent.  I want to see every one of them so as not to ever take for granted God's grandeur of His glorious gifts.  His beauty shines forth upon this dark and messy world.  God is in control.  

Looking over the past seven years of living with chronic M, I must say that this summer has brought me the greatest joy of participating in my life once again.  I still journey through the ups and downs wth this disease and the unpredictability of what the next hour will bring, but I am learning better how to manage and cope.  I care for my body differently now and realize the importance of balancing the doing with the being. 

I would love to hear of some of your highlights and adventures you experienced this summer.  I also am happy to listen to your struggles as well.  This is life no matter what season we are in at the moment.  

Maybe in the next few weeks we have left of summer, we could slow down from the frantic pace of preparing for fall and lean into the wonders of nature.  Let's stop and listen more closely to someone in need and offer some encouragement.   How about we linger longer in the unhurried moments that are left of this bright and sunny season.  Meet me on my deck, and we can sip some fresh iced tea and smile.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A revolving door, a basket of big shoes, and a house full of happy

My blog title pretty much sums of the theme of my summer. It is one of much coming and going of friends and family.  No, we haven't offered our home as a summer air B&B, officially yet!  Lol!  But I must say, it kind of feels like it.  Believe me, this is a good thing.   Truly, this is the first summer in six years since not being well that I am able to experience the pure joy of the crazy chaos of my surroundings.  Sometimes I am an active participant of the silliness, and sometimes I am a passive one.  No matter the case, I am savoring each moment of living, not just surviving. 

Mike and I tease about our B&B because we up front tell people that it really is a "make your own bed and cook your own breakfast" for the most part. It takes me hours before I really function well in the mornings while so many "normal" folks have already been up and at it for the day. However, there is always food in the fridge and a grocery store around the corner.  Most importantly, hot coffee can be offered at all times of the day. Win win!!  Our guest bedroom and our man cave in the basement are frequently occupied.  Between my own guys as well as their many friends, I actually can't keep up with who is where most of the time! Crazy!  Sounds of laughter and joy fill our home which certainly lift our spirits.  

The silly shenanigans of board and video games being played, movies runnng as if the basement were a theater, cooking and baking at all hours of the day and night, and basketball bouncing in the driveway---make our home a place where all are welcome for sure.  I truly treasure every moment as I know the young men and women are growing up, moving away, and settling into their new lives.  This is bittersweet. 

Watching our own sons and their beautiful friends interact and share life together makes my heart very happy.  Over the years our house has always been a full one, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.  Parenting young adults and journeying with them as they step into this uncertain world full of daunting challenges is not an easy thing.  Who knew?  We try our best to guide with lots of love and understanding and then step aside and allow God to fully watch over and care for them.   

This summer our family bid farewell to some dear friends of many years.  Obviously this was not easy to do, but saying goodbye was a necessary part of the process for them to move on to new midlife adventures.  For that, we are happy for them.  We celebrated with small parties and picnics to help give them send offs they will hopefully remember for years to come.  I know we will.  

I am not saying that the Aleo summer has been devoid of conflict and sick days and suffering. This is certainly not the case.  As a family we are always working on relationship issues which entail much prayer and sacrifice and sometimes keeping our "big mouths shut"!!  However, it is in the deep mystery of receiving God's mercy and grace that we gather the strength to press onward together.  

So, amidst the work and play schedules, the sick and painful days, the sitting with others who are hurting and suffering, the celebrations of important life events, and gathering around the big kitchen table for many meals of the loaves and fishes, our house is full of happy.  Praise God.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Singing sweetly

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body,what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"     Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)

These past few weeks of summer, I have had some beautiful opportunities to sit still and listen to the voice of my Father.  Really listen.  The little break I have taken from the constant stimuli from social media has been well worth it to my soul.   Instead of fixating on what is going on in everyone else's lives and all the fake filters of beauty, I have been intentional about paying more attention to my own.  Connecting and listening and praying with and for people have allowed me to center my days with a slightly new focus and purpose.  It feels refreshing and meaningful.  

This summer season as well as this season in which God is placing me have been pivotal for my interior growth.   Living with the daily-ness of chronic M usually has me in a state of anxiety or worry to some degree.  It is a fact of life that I live with now but learning how to better manage it is the key to acceptance and moving forward with new goals and dreams.   I have been blessed with ongoing opportunities to become a patient advocate within the M community and help others on their journeys of living with this debilitating disease.   Helping others, for me, is the best way to get the worrisome focus off of myself and lean into God's promises of His protection, guidance, and love.  Grace.  All Grace.  

Recently I had the pleasure of watching mamma bird feeding her little ones while flying in and out of the little birdhouse.  I love observing nature because it really brings me closer in touch with our magnificent Creator.  The small songbird would sing sweetly much of the day to her little ones. She would feed them and protect her house.  Being a close observer on and off during the day gave me joy in my soul.  I meditated on God's Word about how He cares for us and all of His creation .  It was calming to be in the quiet presence of mamma bird and her young.  True peace washed over me.  No room for worry.  Praise God.  

Have you had any opportunities to witness nature lately that have given you pause for praise and thanksgiving to our Creator?  
Have any particular circumstances allowed for true peace to settle into your soul without the world's constant worry and anger shouting large? 

These few photos were taken from inside our house looking out through a screen because mamma bird did not like me getting too close. National Geographic I am not.  

I wanted to share the beauty of nature with all of you.   No fake filters. The real deal.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Settling into Summer

Here it is mid July already. How can this be?? I am taking a little break from my normal routine of blogging and being attached to social media.  I haven't cut it out all together but have drastically reduced time spent in social media land. I must say, it is a welcome relief.  Instead, I am enjoying connecting with my people the "old fashioned" way of person to person.  Leaning in and listening and sharing life together are refreshing and comforting.  Holding hands, exchanging hugs, and laughing along side one another invite heart to heart conversations.  

I have been blessed this past month to just take in each precious moment with dear friends and family without a forced agenda full of expectations. This has been good for both me and my family.  It has given us time to just be together in the simplist of ways.  We are breathing in the calm and peaceful rhythms of grace---gifts from God.  Praise Him.  

There have been quiet,unspoken miracles made from our messes.  Prayers answered.  Beauty from ashes.   The sacred simple. 

Here are just a few glimpses of my summertime moments--- sipping iced tea on the porch.  Dancing with Fourth of July sparklers.  Watching a fireworks display.  Eating way too much delicious ice cream.  Walking out in nature.  Standing in awe of the vastness of our universe by viewing the moon and the stars.  Laughing silly at our family game nights.  Catching fireflies. Chasing childhood memories.  Celebrating family milestones with a party.  Planting flowers.  Watching flowers grow.  Relaxing instead of doing.  Prioritizing the need for rest first instead of last. 
How is your summer unfolding?   Have you noticed a different flow and rhythm to your days?  Have you given yourself permission to relax and turn off a little social media?  

Wishing and praying you have the opportunity to take time to watch the flowers grow.