Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Card Chaos

Well I told you earlier that I would share my Christmas Card chaos, so I thought I could take care of that today.  For starters, I am usually very organized and meticulous about lists and planning.  Each year when I sit down to do my cards I make a list, double check addresses, print my pictures and envelopes, etc.  Then, after signing the cards (which Luke and Kennedy were able to assist with this year) and stuffing them one would assume I marked the names off the list. Well, long story short I did not mark off the list!!! This caused mass amounts of stress when I went to sit down and finish them a few days later.  I had already mailed the first stack.  So, I called a few good friends to ask if they had received their cards and reached out to my facebook status expressing what had happened and a few others responded that they had received their cards.  So, if you did not receive a card this year, I apologize. If you received two... well hope you enjoyed it!! Lesson learned about marking off my list. I wonder if Santa has ever forgot to mark off his list and visited the same house twice???

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MS Education - Who's at Risk?? Anyone....

Well... I previously said that Mondays would be for MS Education, but I had a nuerologist appointment so we had to move the information to Tuesday this week! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.... we sure did. I am still with my parents letting the kids share their energy with the family for a few days! So, here goes this weeks topic of who is at risk for developing MS.

Multiple Sclerosis Prevalence:
Risk factors and the question of who gets multiple sclerosis (MS) is a bit complicated. Because researchers do not fully understand the causes of MS, they also do understand why some people get MS and others do not. Overall, MS is considered a rare disease. The average person in the US has a 1 in 750 chance of getting MS. Less than one tenth of one percent of US citizens have MS.
Prevalence in the US:
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that 400,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with MS. A 2007 study in the journal Neurology put the number of people with MS in the US at 180,000. This difference is explained by the methods used to estimate the total number of cases. The MS Society’s estimate is viewed as more realistic. Approximately 200 people are diagnosed with MS in the US each week. Estimates of the number of people living with undiagnosed MS vary widely.
Prevalence in the World:
Because MS is a difficult illness to diagnose, worldwide MS statistics are hard to find. The best estimate is that around 2.5 million people in the world have MS.
Women are 2 to 3 times more likely than men to become diagnosed with MS. Researchers believe that the hormonal differences in men and women account for higher risk in women. Hormones have a clear interaction with MS and are known to be protective during pregnancy. This relationship is just beginning to be explored.
If no immediate members of your family have MS, then your chances of having MS are 1 in 750. If you have a parent or sibling with MS, your risk increases to 1 in 100. If you have an identical twin with MS, your risk is 1 in 4. It is interesting that identical twins do not always both have MS, even though they share 100% of genetic information. This fact is why researchers have concluded that MS is not simply a genetic disease.
Ethnicity and Geography:
MS occurs more often in people of northern European descent, but other ethnicities may also have MS. This could be explained by the fact that MS occurs more frequently in regions that are farther from the equator (above 40 degrees latitude). Rates of MS in these northern regions can be as much as 5 times higher. If a person migrates from a high-risk region to a low risk region before the age of 15, they take on the lower risk. Researchers think that puberty (hormones) and geography may somehow interact to increase MS risk.
Most MS is diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, thought both childhood and late onset MS are possible. This is usually the age at which the first symptoms appear and a person begins the process of getting diagnosed with MS.

I hope you find this information as informative as I do.  The more information we arm ourselves with, the more likely we are to find a cure! :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recognition in Action

When we do a good deed for someone we usually receive a "thank you".  Saying thank you is an appropriate gesture for any act of kindness.  However, there are some people that give and give and give - and eventually the people they help see that "thank you" doesn't quite cut it.  Although I usually do not talk about church that often, I attend an awesome church in North Little Rock,  Arkansas.  We have awesome services, music and an amazing children's program.  The church set out years ago with a mission to build 100 churches.  Although they have far exceeded that goal, the missions have not ended.  I am amazed each week to see the giving in action through the congregation, community and the third world.  The current project we are working on is the construction of a church and school in Laos.  (Side note: it is currently against the law to be a Christian in Laos so this is a huge deal).  Anyways, Sunday was Family Christmas.  They recognized four members of the church that work hard to give to others despite their great personal needs and struggles.  The people included the leader of the Single Mother's Group who was showered with gifts, a cancer patient that ministers those with terminal illness, three teenagers transitioning into college this year, and a couple who works with the pre-school ministry.  It was truly a moving and emotional service.  I loved the music, the story of the birth of Jesus and the recognition of those who are working so hard to make our community and our world a more peaceful place.  Isn't that the real reason for the season?? Of course I had to add some photos because the church went as far to surprise one family with a much needed item... a car!! So the moral to this story is, good deeds do not go unrecognized. :) Love the life you live.

Cheryl with the ladies from her Single Mother's Group

Three teenagers receive the gift of free books for college and a laptop for school.

Come on down... its a NEW CAR!!! (she almost fainted...)

Fighting cancer herself, she is recognized with helping others who are facing terminal illness. 
She is gifted tuition to finish her ministry studies. 

After all of this, the singing of Silent Night and How Great Thou Art.... I required a tissue.  I hate crying in public, I get a very red nose and look remotely ridiculous.  But, I felt pretty safe getting teared up this week.  There were about 1000 other women around me in the same boat!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mondays are for MS Education

I have decided that each Monday my blog will be devoted to MS education, awareness, science, etc.  Since I myself am facing this battle, I figure it is my responsibility to educate others about the illness.  So today I am going to start with the basic question...

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is literaly a "disease of many scars."

The scars - or scleroses - form on nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, which are the basic components of the central nervous system (CNS). Also known as plaques, these scars are the result of lesions that destroy the protective material that surrounds the nerve fibers. This material is called the myelin sheath. Much like the insulation on an electrical wire, an intact myelin sheath keeps nerve impulses traveling rapidly and accurately along the nerve fiber. These impulses are essential to normal movement and sensation throughout the body.MS lesions eat away at the myelin sheath, eventually healing into hardened scar tissue. This process is called demyelination.

The scar tissue "short circuits" or interferes with the proper transmission of nerve impulses to various systems in the body. The result is a broad array of motor and sensory disabilities.If the sheath can regenerate itself - known as remyelination -- normal nerve function may return. If not, the nerve will eventually die, and the disability will be permanent. As the extent of nerve damage increases, the level of disability can grow progressively worse over time.

Researchers believe the damaging lesions are caused by an autoimmune reaction, where the body's defense system mistakenly attacks its own tissue. What triggers this abnormal immune response is presently unknown, although viral infection and/or environmental factors are suspect. Genetics may also play a role in susceptibility to the disorder.
The immune system's assault causes inflammation of CNS tissues. The inflamed nerves then develop the destructive lesions that adversely affect a variety of functions, depending upon the location and extent of the lesion damage.

These functions include:
  • Balance and Coordination
  • Bladder/bowel control
  • Pain
  • Sensation
  • Sexual function
  • Speech
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Thought process
  • Vision
Next week I will review who is at most risk for developing MS, environmental and genetic factors.

For more information, visit these valuable websites:

National MS Society
Montel Williams MS Foundation

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Party Time

Ok, I love Christmas for all of the obvious reasons.  I love to decorate, buy gifts, send and receive Christmas Cards (which I royally screwed up on this year... save that for another post), and awesome services and music at church.  So, last night marked my first holiday party of the year.  My friends Katie and Aric host the "Annual Christmas Party" at their house every year.  They love to have a reason for people to get together and the holidays just seem to be the perfect time.  So, some drank, everyone talked, most enjoyed great food, listened to Christmas carols and of course had a "white elephant" gift exchange.  The gift exchange is usually one of the highlights. Last year the highlight was karaoke.  Too bad that was not an option for this year as well.

However, last year after partaking in too many cocktails, the gift exchange got out of control and people were exchanging gifts from Katie and Aric's tree.  These gifts were intended for their children, not party goers.  So, this year we were very careful to make sure they were properly distanced from each other so there would be no confusion. Some of the hot items this year were a Fushigi Ball, Fart Candle (smells absolutely awful), Jager and a festive wine glass.  Here are a few pics of the gift exchange:

Fart Candle (SICK OUT!!)

Paul wins Jager!
Can't live without the Twin Draft Gaurd!

Pirate Purse Magnet... must have.

And, I am happy to report I was home by midnight and at church this morning!! I know... its amazing.
 Be Merry!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Great Idea

Since my dad refers to a computer as a "machine" and requires assistance to even look up a website, I figure I am pretty safe discussing his upcoming Christmas gift without his knowledge.  So, if you are his friend and happen to be reading this - KEEP YOUR TRAP SHUT! lol

Anyways, I found myself hunting up ways to keep costs down for gifts this season (as usual) and was very stumped when it came to my dad.  He has a ton of hobbies so one would think he was easy to shop for.  However, he also has a spending habit.  Therefore, what Steve-o wants, Steve-o buys.... for himself. So it makes the holidays a little difficult.

While on a little shopping outing, Kennedy and I stumbled upon the puzzle aisle.  Her and Luke love to do puzzles.  Since I had a coupon and frames were buy one get one free I thought this would be the perfect gift that we could put together and give to Papa for Christmas.  Kennedy and I selected a Thomas Kinkaid puzzle named "Natures Paradise".  Although I did notice the box say it had one thousand pieces, I did not know they were tiny!! Needless to say, the puzzle was much too difficult for the kids to assist with.  So, here are some photos of the puzzle that has consumed the last week of my life.  To give you an idea of how annoying this project was, it took two of us four hours to flip over all of the pieces and find the edges,  But I must say it is a beautiful print.  :) 

work in progress.....

                                                             Finished Product!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Most Favorite Christmas Music....

I love Christmas Carols.  Through all my years of choir, Pratt High Singers, Wichita State Chamber Singers, etc.. that was my favorite concert of the year.  "Oh Holy Night" has the ability to make me tear up everytime its done well.  I always hated the fact that the soprano usually had that solo and I am a tried and true alto.  No upper register here! But, I love the fun ones too. Kelli Pickler does a great version of "Santa Baby".  And of course my man of all men... the incredible Michael Buble'. I don't care what song comes out of his mouth, its all amazing.  So if you're looking for some music to put you in the holiday mood, here are my suggestions:

1. Michael Buble' - Let it Snow                                               
2. Glee Christmas Album                                                   
3. Mannheim Steamroller                                                    undefined
4. Miracle on 34th Street Soundtrack                                           
5. Celine Dion - These are Special Times                                              undefined

Whatever tunes you choose, they are sure to bring a smile to your face and spark a holiday memory!  I hope my children will continue their love for music, I look forward to all of their concerts ands plays in the future.  I am sure they will provide as much endless entertainment as Shea and I did to our parents! Here's a little video of my favorite man singing "Let it Snow"! Click the link to enjoy! :) Merry Christmas!

 Buble' Let it Snow - You Tube

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Power of a Prism

August 18, 2010 I woke up and was unable to see out of my right eye and was rapidly losing vision in my left.  This was due to a vitreous hemorrhage in my optic cavity.  I spent a week in the hospital receiving high dose steroids to help calm down the inflammation and allow the blood to begin to dissipate.  This trauma left me with very poor vision.  I was seeing 20/400 out of my right eye and 20/200 out of my left.  Today, through Kenalog injections and new prism lenses, I can now see 20/70 out of my right eye and 20/50 out of my left.  This is one of those little "miracles" I was discussing in my post on a few days ago. 

So, what is a prism and how does it work? A prism is a transparent surface with flat, polished edges that can be used to reflect light.  In the optometry world, doctors can use these prisms to set the corrective lenses off axis to displace images the same way you would use a prism to displace light (Shine a crystal in the sun to make a rainbow, etc..).  Prisms are  used to correct many vision problems including double vision.  Many people who have any trauma to the eye or brain can be left with weak muscles of the eye, resulting in double vision.  A prism can allow the patient to have vast improvement in daily life and most importantly their vision.

I would say that the power of a prism saved my life and my sanity.  For three months I was miserable struggling to see my surroundings clearly, read without struggle and was unable to drive.  My new lenses allow me to drive during the day and see much better than I ever thought possible. Since prisms use the science of reflecting light, my lenses only work in natural light.  Florescent lighting is a nightmare for me... really makes it difficult to see.  I am also unable to drive at night because headlights alter the effectiveness of the lens.  But, I am just thankful for what they are able to do for me!! So thank you Mr. Issac Newton for your study of light and combined particles.  Your science has made me one happy patient!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The definition of Strength.

strength  (strngkth, strngth, strnth)
1. The state, property, or quality of being strong.
2. The power to resist attack; impregnability.
3. The power to resist strain or stress; durability.
4. The ability to maintain a moral or intellectual position firmly.
5. Capacity or potential for effective action: a show of strength.
6. a. The number of people constituting a normal or ideal organization: The police force has been at half strength since the budget cuts.
b. Military capability in terms of personnel and materiel: an army of fearsome strength.
7. a. A source of power or force.
b. One that is regarded as the embodiment of protective or supportive power; a support or mainstay.
c. An attribute or quality of particular worth or utility; an asset.
8. Degree of intensity, force, effectiveness, or potency in terms of a particular property.
Strength is a quality I have been searching for. I hear praise from many people for how strong I have been through the past few months.  I am a teacher.  I love teaching in every sense of the word.  Teachers have the ability to be something greater than they realize.  They are the keeper of secrets, the voice of knowledge and hold the power to promote positive change.  Teachers belong to a vast organization of others with a common goal - to mold the youth of today for a better tomorrow.  So when I reflect on the inner strength I have displayed to others I realize that this must have come from a place deep within that I didn't realize I had always carried with me.  Those who know me well know that I am highly emotional.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and are easy to upset.  However, I am greatly devoted to those that I love.  When I love, I do so with my whole heart.  When I listen, I do so with open ears.  I believe that everyone around me is a teacher.  I learn from others; through their experiences, mistakes, heartaches, joy, grief, etc.  We obtain true strength from the support of those around us. Our family creates a strength that is irreplaceable. Our friends provide us with honest truths and unforgettable memories.  I believe it is through all of these relationships I have found my strength and for that I am thankful.  So the next time I am praised for my strength I will say thank you in return, but know that I am thanking all of those who have provided me with the "embodiment of protective or supportive power".

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It will never happen to me.

Many of us hear stories and immediately say, "that would never happen to me." I have said that thousands of times in my life. Never say never seems to be the most appropriate cliche' to describe how I feel these days.  I never thought I would be a divorced, single mother.  I never thought I would live in Arkansas.  I never thought I would be diagnosed with a chronic illness.  I sure as HE** never thought I would wake up blind one day.  But, all of these things have happened in my life. 

All of us have a story of "it will never happen to me".  It may be death, illness, weight gain, divorce, etc.  But the most important part of the story is the part where you move on.  The chapters of acceptance and survival.  These are the chapters that define you.  I want to be known for how I lived and survived not for what happened to me.  No pity parties here.... unless it includes free drinks!! jk

I remember when I filed for divorce.  I had a wonderful attorney in Wichita.  He too had been divorced.  Although he did not have children I felt as if he personally understood my situation as well as my heart break.  He told me that he was giving me a gift.  The gift was a book with endless chapters and blank pages and that it was up to me to fill the pages.  That I was being given the opportunity to turn the page and start fresh.  May sound silly to some, but that statement has followed me long after the divorce.  Those words are the same words I repeated to myself when I was diagnosed with MS.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! My two least favorite words.... Multiple Sclerosis. 

Its been four months since I was diagnosed with MS.  I am now comfortable accepting that I have the disease.  I am comfortable with giving myself daily injections and subjecting myself to endless doctors appointments.  I am also at peace with the reality that I lost a majority of my vision as a result of the disease.  However, those little miracles I was talking about earlier are working for me.  My health and my sight are improving.... as well as my outlook on life.  So stayed tuned as I talk about family, life, health, music, and whatever else may come to my mind! It could be very interesting.

"I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope." Elizabeth Edwards, her last FB post 12/6/2010.

We all have second chances...

People decided to blog for various reasons. To raise awareness for a cause, share funny stories about their children, complain about poor customer service or even pitch business ideas.  For many people, a blog is a way for them to communicate with others; some of which they don't even know.  That is the glory of the Internet revolution.  Individuals are given many outlets to express themselves.  So.. I am sure you are asking why I decided to blog.  And the answer is, personal therapy. 

To me, blogging will enable me to tell my life story on my own terms.  I have been given an opportunity to recreate myself as a human being several times.  I have endured many life challenges as well as health obstacles.  But the most important part is I have endured. I have survived.  I have been given many gifts in life... these are my personal miracles. 

I know that some will read my blog that have known me since childhood.  Others may stumble upon my blog that have never met me. Either way, I hope that the stories and thoughts that I share will inspire at least one person.  After all, life is a journey and I invite you to share my new journey in life with me.