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I Stopped Drinking

I gave up wine for 30 days.

Yep, even the first two weeks of summer break.

Today is the 31st day.

Most who know me or even know me from online know that one of my favorite ways to unwind is on the patio with Ryan, enjoying a cold glass of chardonnay and an assortment of cheese and crackers. This little treat is like my participation ribbon at the end of a day – not first, second, or third place – just simply, yes! You showed up and accomplished another day with 8 kids! Here’s your prize! Enjoy.

The decision to stop this pleasant tradition was partly evoked by a trip to the library where I saw Annie Grace’s book The Alcohol Experiment.  I thought, Could I do this? I had considered removing one food group a month to (hopefully) pinpoint the origin of my eczema flareups and figured May might be a good month to start – with alcohol – specifically wine and the occasional beer. This isn’t the first time I’ve completed a similar feat, but in the past the decision often ensues after the holidays or vacation when my body needs a detox from overindulging. I love a good challenge, and I tucked the concept away in the back of my mind.

After we moved, I was in a great place emotionally.  I was walking every day, doing yoga, engaging with Ryan as we enjoyed weekly date nights exploring restaurants, and having lots of family fun with the new opportunity’s city life offered. At the end of most days, a glass of crisp, buttery chardonnay or a cool wine spritzer became an anticipated treat and then… then I broke my foot and Luke started screaming non stop and some other really difficult situations occurred that I haven’t healed from and so I won’t write about them yet, and the glass of wine I enjoyed became glasses of wine and the social media scrolling (which I also restructured as I detailed in last week’s post) that was typically limited to school time hours was seeping into family time hours, and I felt like none of it was serving me very well anymore.

My anxiety was mounting.  I was not dealing with the uncomfortable feelings and instead wine and scrolling because a mindless way to make motherhood a little bit easier and allowed me to disengage. The typical glass followed by a walk, became glasses as I sat on my rear end unable to move and instead of catching up on the day, I replayed and relived the recent trauma by obsessing and sent myself further into a hole of misery with every sip I took.  Not a productive cycle. It was time for a reset.  I had to reprogram my habits surrounding what wine had become during the past few weeks, and as research shows, it usually takes approximately 30 days to form new habits. I immediately secured The Alcohol Experiment which became the perfect tool to accompany me on my alcohol free journey.

Thirty-one days in, I enjoy the new me that has emerged from the ashes. I’m stronger, more confident, and much less skittish because I’ve retrained my brain to deal with anxiety rather than ignore it.

The past month felt a bit like a pregnancy; a familiar analogy. The anticipation of an improved life as I gave birth to a new me. I figured out what my triggers were and how to feed my system with new thought patterns, tools and skills. I tried to center most decisions around being the healthiest version of myself so that I could bring life to others. I’m still pregnant in a sense because it’s an ongoing process of renewal as I unearth some deep-rooted junk and learn ways to muddle through.  Because that’s what it is, right? When shit lands in our lap, we muddle through, inch by inch with either healthy tools like working out, gardening, reading, or crocheting or unhealthy tools like gossip, beer, filling our bodies with preservatives, or shopping.  It can all get out of hand pretty quickly if we don’t clear our heads, reevaluate, pray for grace, and retrain our brains.

The only time I really craved a glass of wine was during my monthly cycle (sorry guys).  Something about the estrogen fluctuations, sugar cravings and hormones must have previously been satisfied with wine because in place of it, I made (and enjoyed) a cake with 6 cups of sugar along with strawberry shortcakes, blueberry crisp and homemade ice cream.  Other than those couple of days, it wasn’t a craving at all, and I accomplished a ton! Such as –

  1. I lost weight
  2. I painted my kitchen
  3. I found joy in former activities such as crocheting, reading, crafting, and writing in a journal.
  4. I updated my proposal
  5. I conducted meetings about starting a new Lucas Project chapter
  6. I read ten books!
  7. I found a therapist
  8. I crocheted a blanket for Annabelle’s birthday
  9. I set aside an hour every day for quiet time (reading, writing, prayer)
  10. My head is clear. I wake up and I’m ready to face situations that previously would have sent me into a spiral of despair as I’m now able to step outside of myself (or Betty – stay tuned, a post on her soon) and view situations objectively and rationally.

The cons included my hormones, the eczema flareups did NOT decrease, and I really didn’t like not having a choice.  I know that sounds strange because it was a self- induced experiment, but when I commit to something, I am in 100%, and in my mind there is NO choice.

Where do I go from here? Day by day, choice by choice. The idea of having a glass of wine has truly become a take it or leave it thought. I am now empowered with so much more mindfulness after reading the book and dealing with my feelings. Therapy has also helped. The anxiety is almost completely gone, and I feel courageous for completing the commitment. As with any decision moving forward, if I feel like it needs to be addressed again, I will stop and reevaluate. I incorporate this philosophy into numerous aspects of life including: food choices, social media, exercise (that usually needs to be added), wine, engagement with my children, and the list could go on and on.

This essay is simply my honest experience and is in no way a prescription or guide for someone addicted to alcohol.  If this describes your experience, please seek professional help. Maybe you see yourself in some of my words, and it’s time for a reset in your life. I can attest that it really does work! Maybe it’s not even wine or social media but something else.  We all have a thing or two we turn to in times of difficulty, and it’s learning to manage these decisions and not let them manage us.

I’m certain I’ll enjoy a glass of wine from time to time; a birthday celebration, vacation, or a night spent with girlfriends, but I’ll be mindful – God willing, and it’s all by his grace, isn’t it?  Grace to take it moment by moment – decision by decision – in his power and leading.

Next up, no gluten for June.  Hopefully I see some improvements with the eczema.

 

Just Keep Livin!

Snapshots From a Social Media Free Weekend

I decided a few weeks ago to give up social media on the weekends. This decision came together for a few reasons such as –
  1. I’m not very good at rest and even worse at the concept if I have the opportunity to constantly work (via social media).
  2. I realized the onslaught of never ending information was making me anxious and depressed. Yes, I care about people, yes, I want to know how they’re doing, but after awhile it just becomes too much, and I have to step away.
  3. Social media was making me less present and available for those I love – my husband and children.
  4. I’ve found I’m much more productive in so many other areas of life by setting boundaries around social media on Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Finally, I’ve also discovered the flip side to be true – I’m much more productive and engaged online Monday through Friday because I’ve had a mental break over the  weekend.
This past weekend was fantastic. We began Saturday morning with giant banana split yogurt parfaits, then we all helped dad plant the garden, followed by chores which resulted in Wendy’s frosties and a trip to the store where the kids picked out a new book for being so helpful. Saturday night we had homemade pizza and strawberry/beet sorbet. We intended to go to church on Sunday morning, but Luke slept in until 9! So instead we took the family to the park, Ryan and I went for a hike, and then I parked my rear end in bed and poured over my new cookbooks from the previous day’s shopping excursion. It was good for my heart & perhaps my experience will encourage you to try a social media free weekend.
See you Monday!

Just keep livin!

A Day in the Life of a Special Needs Caretaker – Questions Answered

A few weeks ago I posted a documentary called Life of Luke which detailed the day in the life of our son Lucas who has special needs or more specifically, it detailed a day in the life of a special need’s caretaker, yours truly.  This short video has received over 900 views on YouTube and has led to insightful discussions and questions in regard to what it’s like raising Luke.  I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE diving into this topic – especially when it’s done in a respectful and life-giving way.  There are difficulties and challenges associated with raising a child like Luke, as there are with any child and there always will be! – but if our challenges can lead to awareness and resources for families like mine, then I’ll continue to write and post about the realities of our life.

This documentary helped open the eyes of many individuals including a few who said, “Jess, I had no idea that you needed special equipment for your child.  It just never crossed my mind.” As these comments and questions poured in, I decided that it would be helpful to answer them on the blog.  Today’s post will address the different types of equipment we have for Luke and how we obtain it.

First, we have used a wonderful company called Independence on Wheels for the majority of our adaptive equipment needs here in Tennessee.  I love working with this company as they come to me, they fill out all of the paper work, and they make the referral calls – which as any parent of a special need’s child knows, is huge.  I think I’ve spent a third of my life filling out paperwork for Luke. No joke.

Our most recent piece of equipment obtained through this company is the car seat. This was a life changer.  When we lived in rural Tennessee, I would drive about 30 minutes to and from Luke’s school.  Luke didn’t enjoy this long car ride and would often scream.  One day, he was bored and figured out how to wiggle his way out of the seat belt and found his way to the front of the van while I was driving! This was disastrous and led to multiple detours of pulling over to the side of the road and trying to wrangle him into his seat belt once again in a way where he couldn’t escape. I called the company, they arrived within the week, and we ordered the car seat which took a couple of months to secure. He can not get out of this – praise Jesus.

We also utilize a stroller/wheelchair for Luke which was absolutely necessary when he was younger, but he’s not real interested in it anymore as his walking continues to improve. It is still a necessary convenience when he needs to be restrained because we can’t walk with him forever despite his insistence for it.

The Rifton activity chair which he doesn’t really associate with activities but more so with food.  We are currently looking for a chair (that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars) that he would keep him safe (so probably a restraint), allow for some independence, and one that he might learn to associate with activities rather than eating. The Rifton chair is manufactured in a similar way as a large high chair. There’s a strap to use if necessary but we haven’t had to utilize it as the tray keeps him in place and he’s happy as the food continues coming his way.

His bed – which in all honestly, looks a little bit like a jail but came highly recommended from the company Independence on Wheels.  This bed has been great as the double doors swing open wide enough for him to come and go as he pleases and can serve as a giant changing table for clothes, shoes, etc. We paid extra for the foam cushions that attached (past tense) all the way around the bed on the inside via Velcro strips – well, that was their original purpose; however, Luke managed to rip them off one morning, and we found him buried beneath the pile. We improvised and ran them along the outside of the bed for additional safety purposes. This bed offers a cozy, compact environment for Luke which he finds comfort in along with an easy clean mattress made out of vinyl.  Again, it is void of sheets, pillows, and extra blankets because Luke will have none of that nonsense.  He will rip them off and throw it out faster than you can put it in there.  I don’t claim to understand all the musings that occur in this child’s brain.

Finally, his braces. He is fitted for a new pair every year or two, and they have assisted greatly in his ability to walk.

That’s it. In the next few weeks I’ll give you a sneak peak into a surprise we’ve been planning and answer the question, “Does Luke Play?” or, maybe I’ll let Luke answer that question with a live demonstration.

Just Keep Livin!

Life of Luke – A Day in the Life of a Special Need’s Caretaker

Here it is. A day in the life of Luke or more specifically, a day in the life of a special need’s caretaker – yours truly.

Honestly, it’s kind of scary to put our life out there like this. It’s one thing to write the truth with the freedom of choosing words that paint the perception I want to offer, and it’s a whole other experience to actually show the truth – messy fingers, annoyance, and zero makeup. What if people don’t agree with how we’ve chosen to operate our lives with a special need’s child? What if they mock how we look? How I look?! Can I handle this? We shall see.

Most of what you will witness can speak for itself but some of the footage portrayed needs an additional explanation.

1. Luke’s official diagnosis is SXI – severe multiple impairments. Luke has a shunt because in theory he suffered a stroke in utero. Luke is extremely healthy. Luke continues to progress in every aspect of his life which is a blessing and a difficulty because he’s not very content most of the time.

2. You may notice a lack of sheets, pillows or blankets on his bed. This is a sensitivity issue for him. For some reason he only wants the big blue blanket.  If we put sheets or pillows or additional blankets in his bed, he will rip them off and get rid of them asap.  He usually wears a footie sleeper for warmth.

3. Luke’s wheelchair. Yes, Luke has a wheelchair.  No, he’s usually not super excited about sitting in it.  He won’t sit in it if we aren’t moving so putting him in his wheelchair to hang out with the family isn’t an option.  If we were to attempt this, Luke would begin violently thrashing his body back and forth – the chair moving as well – while offering a high pitched awful sounding scream.  This would continue until he either hurt himself or we removed him from the chair.

4. Luke rarely eats meals with us as you’ll notice in the video. His feeding chair doesn’t fit well in our smaller dining room and even if it did, we probably wouldn’t want Luke at the dinner table. Meal time is already intense with 8 kids. Luke was blessed with his mother’s long, thin, monkey arms. These arms are capable of reaching almost anything including all of the dinner plates and food. Luke also has a tendency to scream a lot – especially when hungry. So the grabbing and the screaming and the shuffling all of food out of the way, and the additional little voices lending to the grand cacophony of noise and chaos is just too much, and we made the decision, on behalf of our sanity, to feed Luke first followed by a bath, get him settled into his bed, and then eat dinner with the rest of the kids.

This documentary is just a mom with an Ipad portraying her child with profound special needs so obviously not a recipe for the most professional work of art you’ll ever see. I apologize for any sound issues, all the “ummmms”, and use of “ok and so” about 500 times. I apparently lack an extensive speaking vocabulary. FYI – I am very open to a professional invading our life if there’s a film maker who would like to tackle this project and give it a more polished (or brand new!) look. In the meantime YOU dear blog reader can help spread the word by liking, sharing, and commenting on this post. By engaging in some small way, you are helping special needs caretakers raise awareness which will in turn (eventually) lend to more support and resources for our families. You can also follow along on Luke’s journey by finding him on Instagram at Life of Luke or the whole family at jessplusthemess on Instagram and Facebook.

Finally, I am open to questions as long as they are respectful. The second anyone turns disrespectful towards me, my child, or anyone in my family, or come after me anonymously, I will cut you off. Period. I ain’t got no time for that. Enjoy and Just Keep Livin!

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Sunlight Burning at Midnight

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