Thursday, August 24, 2017

Diagnosis: Are You Kidding Me?!

I have so much to be grateful for.  I have been blessed with 5 beautiful boys and an amazing husband who is not only my very best friend, but my eternal love and companion forever!  We have such amazing Army adventures and for the first time in a LONG time I am feeling better about my outward appearance since the big weight loss.  I am training for another half marathon, and I am right on schedule... what more can I want?  Then why oh why am I so unhappy?

You see, I have a deep secret.  One I have kept inside my whole life.  Only, I really didn't know it was secret... I have learned at a very young age how to cope and adapt and appear mostly normal to everyone around me.  I always got excellent grades, I was always the teacher's pet because I was quiet but I participated and I never acted out.  I never got in trouble, not even once -- I even got an award at the end of my 6th grade year for never getting in trouble since kindergarten.

I was a good kid.  Then I hit puberty and went a little nuts.  I was a very difficult teenager.  I was angry, I was moody, I had super low self-esteem. I slept A LOT or didn't sleep at all.  I started skipping classes in high school because I was bored and I thought my teachers were wasting my time.  My grades started going down my sophomore year, and I honestly could not have cared less.  I KNEW I needed good grades to get into college, I just couldn't get myself to care about it.  Sure I wanted to make something of my life, I had a super high IQ, I knew I was talented and smart, I just didn't really care enough to apply it.  I wasn't lazy... just unmotivated.

My parents then moved my sister and I from the city we grew up in to rural southern Utah. In fact, we moved right down the street and around the corner from my future husband!  I thought I would be more bothered about the move, because "normal teens" I knew would have been furious and really struggle with the life change.  I was okay with it.  Although, for the sake of all teenagers everywhere, I pretended to be a little outraged. I did get a rise out of people by showing up to school the first day with purple and pink hair (This was the mid-90's and colored hair was way outside the norm).  I found a group of friends that accepted me, mostly... one of which became my future brother-in-law.  I survived high school, for the most part.  I was so ahead academically from living my life in gifted classes in the city, that the small town stuff was a no-brainer and I hardly even had to show up.  I think I only got caught sluffing class once, and I sweet talked and BSed my way out of it... I was good at that.  Because of my big blue eyes and blond hair, I was often underestimated and I took advantage of that all the time.  I was really good at playing innocent, when I was clearly guilty as all heck.

Now, I know what you're thinking... that doesn't sound too different than what most teenagers go through.... here's the thing, that's what I wanted you to think.  I LONGED to be normal.  I wanted to fit in, for the most part anyway.  I was an introvert, but I still wanted to be asked to dances and feel like people saw and cared for me.  I wanted to have friends.  But inside, I knew I was odd.  Different.  I didn't quite measure up.  I felt unworthy of attention.

I managed to graduate high school with honors, and off to college I went.  This is where I really started struggling.  My mom wasn't there to sing annoying songs in the morning to get me out of bed.  She wasn't there to make me meals and tell me to do my homework.  I started to develop serious anxiety bordering on depression.  I couldn't go to sleep at night and I stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning, then I couldn't wake up for class.  I tried, I really did.  Then I stopped caring.  I stopped going to class because I realized I could just show up and pass the tests, because I was really good at that.  I couldn't sit still in lectures, it was almost painful... and I kept getting distracted, like thinking about what I was going to do later, who I was going to hang out with, the book I was currently reading, whether or not that guy over there was checking me out... hey, is the teacher looking at me?!  What did he just say?!  All. The. Time.

I started drinking Pepsi.  It calmed me.  I became addicted and drank a 12 pack a day.  I gained weight so I switched to Diet.  I felt better, I started passing my classes.

Then just before I got my associates, I completely freaked out.  Total melt down and missed ONE final.  PE.  And they wouldn't let me graduate.  My mom was livid.  I didn't care.  Whatever.  I was too tired and anxious.  I wasn't good at school.  I was ready to move on.

I opened a used bookstore.  I loved books and I could sit in there alone most of the day and read and play video games on my computer.  It was perfect for me.  But again I got bored.  And when 9/11 happened, I decided I needed a change.  Closed my bookstore and went on a mission.  I had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue in college.  I was so concerned about my abnormal issues I saw a few different doctors.  Most of them thought I was full of crap and dismissed me.  I figured I was going crazy and no one would listen.  I looked and acted normal for the most part.  I was smart and creative... I was just odd.  Nothing wrong with that right?  So here I was 21 years old, tired all the time, stressed, anxious, and serving a mission for my church.  My companions didn't much care for me... I could only pretend normalcy for so long without telling them off for being lazy (I thought) or unorganized, or not following the rules to a T.  Rules are SUPER important to me.  I think I had one companion who loved me for me and that was the best part of my mission was being with her.

I served with honor and came home.  I thought, okay, I will come home get a job and get married.  But I seriously put off all the guys.  I couldn't figure it out, what was wrong with me??  I could sew, cook, draw, clean, write, I was great with kids, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom like nothing else!  I wanted to be a good, supportive wife... and I was very religious and traditional.  I wasn't super skinny or beautiful, but I honestly felt I made up for those short comings with who I was on the inside... but most guys didn't go for it.  It was like I opened my mouth and their eyes glazed over.

Which brings me to secret number one:  I was and am a human lie-detector.  My BS meter is through the roof!  My kids HATE it. I can also tell what people are feeling or how they feel about me.  I am extremely empathetic... or how I like to call it:  I have a great gift of discernment. But I hide it most of the time.  No one likes to know you know they are lying to you.  No one likes you to know they can't stand you.  So I pretend like I don't notice... I get more friends that way.  But you know, it hurts a lot.  It took my husband a long time to believe me when I told him so and so didn't like me, so I didn't want to hang out with them or sit next to them in church.

So I pretty much tested the dating waters when I got home from my 18 month mission in Southern California.  Guys were jerks to me.  I thought I would never live my dream of being a wife and mom because I was fat and ugly... and weird.

Then Ben came along and looked at me like I was the only girl in the room... actually I was, but that is beside the point.  My long time readers and friends know that from our first date to the day we married was exactly 5 weeks.  It was fast... but we both went into it knowing what we were doing.  You see our first date was like a very logical, rational, well thought out interview.  I didn't care for games, and neither did he.  I was sick of playing around and not getting to the point.  I told him exactly what I wanted in life and he told me the same and our goals matched, so logically and reasonably, we decided that we would make a pretty good pair.  Turns out we were right!  Almost 13 years and still going strong!  Ben was the best choice I ever made. (For the whole story click here).

We forged our lives together, meeting our goals together one at a time.  We grew together. We learned together. And we made our lives wonderful together.  Ten months after we got married Sam came along, and parenthood and schooling on Ben's part consumed our lives.  Our families didn't always understand our choices, but we always thought that they were right for us.  And we have done very well for ourselves.  Was it easy?  Heck no!!  But tried to be the best we could be.

You all know the rest.  Ben has Inattentive ADHD (previously called ADD), and so far, our 3 oldest boys have it and I pretty sure the babies have it too.  College was a struggle for Ben.  It took him 8 years to get a bachelors degree... even though he was the hardest worker I knew, he also worked full time to support me and the kiddos (by this time we knew their issues and it was vital I was home with the kids).  Ben survived off of very little sleep and worked hard.  He wasn't a great test taker and that was were he struggled, but he is so brilliant and smart that he really did know his stuff... better than his peers even!  But tests gave him anxiety and he would blank out.  Because of being in the Army, Ben is not allowed to medicate, so I learned all there was to know about ADHD and I supported and helped him the best I could.  I also worked with the boys.  We knew Sam was "special" when he was very small.  But we were blown away when Nephi's Kindergarten teacher approached us with ADHD concerns. (Story here).  Then a couple years later, a friend that had kids with ADHD pointed out that we should get Sam tested, after he swung on her chandelier and wouldn't get off her banister at a little party he went to at her house.

Over the years, I have become a professional on ADHD, all the symptoms, all the treatment options, how it manifests in men and boys... I could seriously write the book... if I could bring myself to finish any book I start.

Which brings me to now.

Last November, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's and put on a very strict eating plan.  You can see the whole story here.  I lost a lot of weight.  Seriously, I am down 125 pounds.  I am almost the thinnest I have ever been in my adult life.  I am running again, I fit in my favorite clothes, and I don't feel so self conscious when I go out in public... for the most part.  But as the weight came off, I became more anxious.  I was sad all the time.  I KNEW rationally, that I should be SOOOO HAPPY!!  That I should celebrate my achievements.  But I couldn't.  I couldn't wake up in the morning.  I couldn't get out of bed, and when I did, I physically struggled to even leave the house.  I had to force myself to walk out the door.  My temper was always on the edge and I would have serious melt downs over little things.  I was shaky.  Fidgety. Messes gave me so much anxiety, I shut down and couldn't move... and I couldn't bring myself to clean up even though it was causing me issues.  I started forgetting a lot.  Birthdays, appointments, etc.  I was losing things.  I was frustrated at myself for being so irrational.  What the heck was wrong with me!?

I started studying Hashimoto's and found that lots of my issues kind of fit.  Maybe I had food intolerance's.  I cut out dairy and lost 10 pounds in one week after a two month stall!  But my mental state was still in turmoil and being a wife and mom became such a struggle.  I started working out more if I could find the energy... but then I couldn't sleep at night!  I literally thought I was going crazy.  I cried a lot.  I had no hope.  I worried Ben would get sick of my crap and leave me.... I know he wouldn't but I couldn't think clearly.  I. Was. A. Mess.

I called my doctor and told him I was a walking disaster, a ticking time bomb, I wanted all my levels checked.  I went in got tested.  My thyroid meds needed changing.  So I got a lower dose.  The symptoms got worse!  Six weeks later I went in again and told him to check the Hashimoto antibody levels and all my vitamin levels.  He did, because he's a great guy and super patient with me.  He called me and told me that all my levels were normal, in fact, because of my excellent diet, my Hashimoto's was completely in control.  He said that if I hadn't tested positive back in November he would think I never had it to begin with.  Great news... but what the heck was wrong with me.  I cried.  He told me to think about things, to make another list and let him know in the next few weeks what steps I wanted to take next.  He didn't know, I was a mystery, but he was great enough to be open to my suggestions. I love that he recognized that I wasn't lying and that I was smart enough to figure this out and he would help me any way he could.

Last week was particularly hard for me.  I was mentally shutting down.  It wasn't just hard on me, my family was really suffering too.  I prayed like I have never prayed before.  God, I said, only You know what is wrong with me.  Was it depression and/or anxiety?  It didn't really feel like that was the root of my issues... just a symptom.  The thought came to me, what changed since November except your diet that could be giving you mental issues?

Then at last my prayers were answered.  In the last place I expected to find it.  On Facebook.  In an article posted on a support site I am part of for parents of kids with ADHD.  I was home alone.  Ben had taken the boys to church because I just couldn't do church that day.  So there I was, checking my feed when this article popped up: There's No Way I Could Have ADHD, Right?!

I don't know why I clicked on it.  But it changed my life.

I just sat there in shock as I read.  Missing puzzle pieces started shifting in my head and fitting together.  Things were making sense for the first time in my life...

I went to other articles:
What it Feels Like to Live with Undiagnosed ADHD
Hair Pulling! Skin Picking! Nail Biting! OH MY!
ADHD is NOT a Male Disorder

I downloaded a podcast that was highly recommended: ADHD in Adults Vs. Children: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

I. Was. Blown. Away.

Never once in ALL my ADHD research and dealing with it with my husband and my kids, did it ONCE cross my mind that I could have it too.

No one in my family was ever diagnosed.  We were a tough bunch that dealt.  We coped.  We sucked it up!

I feel to the floor in the kitchen, with my headphones in, still listening to the podcast... and I sobbed.  Uncontrollably.

All my issues.  Not my fault.

It wasn't my fault I was weird.  Odd.  That life was particularly hard.

My brain was wired differently.  And it was okay.  It. Was. Okay.

I have ADHD.

There was no doubt in my mind.

Everything... my whole life... made sense.

I cried because I was relieved.  I had an answer at last!  I cried because I wasn't going crazy.  I cried because I had unfairly blamed Ben for my kids genes when it was my fault too.  I cried because I had hope for the first time in my life that things could get better!

I emailed my doctor that night.  I said: "I have ADHD!!"  He called me first thing the next morning and laughing said, "Yes!  I can't believe I didn't think of it.  You are exactly right.  Come in first thing tomorrow and we will do the evaluation and talk about it."

I went through the evaluation, and it was pretty smooth because my doctor knew me so well by now.  I was officially diagnosed (I am to follow up regularly with my new doctor when we get to El Paso next month), and he gave me a light dose of ADHD meds (same as my 10 yr old, Nephi's).

I took the pill when I got home.

Within 15 minutes, my anxiety, depression, anger, everything just faded away like the morning tide.  I was calm, really calm physically and mentally for the first time in my life.  No kidding.  The first thing I noticed was that it was so quiet.  How could that be?  I was surrounded by my 5 crazy loud boys.  Then it hit me.  It was quiet in my head.  My inner voice, that is usually SOOOO loud and thinking thoughts at a million times an hour... was silent.  It was the weirdest most wonderful feeling in the world!

And of course, I started crying.  I felt so happy. So peaceful.

My life is going to change people.  Everything is going to be different.  Without that weight on my shoulders, and proper treatment, life is going to be so bright for me and for my family!  For the first time in a long time, I really truly look forward to the future.

Why wasn't I diagnosed as a child?

In girls, we can manifest our hyperactivity internally.  I was bright, smart, well-behaved. I literally read 600 plus words per minute.  My mind goes so fast.  No one can see that.  No one could see my anxiety, stress, random bouts of depression.  Intense boredom. I looked normal.  I masked my inner weirdness by acting as normal as I could.  When I am excited, I can't mask it as well, and I talk fast, but not like a hyper person... just a happy person.  If you look back at all my posts, you can see it coming out in my writing.  I use a lot of !!! because everything is exciting to me.  And I have amazingly long run on sentences because I have a lot of thought to put down.

Also it wasn't caught because ADHD was still a tricky thing to diagnose back then and neither one of my parents were, or their parents.... but it's there somewhere undiagnosed because ADHD is VERY genetic.  In fact, if one parent has it, 50% of their kids will have it.  If both parents... yeah, my boys don't stand a chance.

85% of women with ADHD go their whole lives undiagnosed.  95% are self-diagnosed (we are master problem solvers and we know something is wrong, we don't give up until we get an answer) AFTER the age of 30.

I am one of those statistics.

Do I regret not being diagnosed earlier?  I mean, my life could have been SO different!

This was my first thought.  Then I squashed it.  I love who I am.  Who I have become.  I am a strong woman who has fought like crazy my whole life to control something I didn't know I had.  I have no regrets, only happiness that NOW is the time to get it really under control.  To have answers is liberating, to say the least.

Am I aware that many people don't believe in ADHD?  They think it's an excuse for bad parenting or lack of discipline...

Yes, after years of dealing with it with my kids and husband, I know there are people who don't believe in it.  That's their prerogative.  I don't care what they think... my advice to them: knock on wood, because chances are they may end up with ADHD person in their life.  It's a very real disorder.

ADHD is a bad thing right??

Wrong.  I mean, yeah it's hard.  It's complicated.  It is heartbreaking to feel different.  But we also have some pretty cool superpowers.  What I always called my "Getting in the Zone", is actually called hyperfocusing.  I didn't know that most people couldn't do it... it comes so natural to me.  Also, many of us are super smart and extremely creative.  We love to learn new things, but like to do it on our terms.  We do get bored easily, and we tend to finish others sentences when we feel like they aren't talking fast enough for our brains.  We can either read really fast, or listen to audiobooks on x2 or more and comprehend it all.  We are empathetic.  We are sensitive to other's feelings.  We are also hyper-observant... we can sense everything going on around us... I seriously thought every one could do this.  We are also quick learners and cool under pressure.  This is why Ben makes such a great soldier!

But People with ADHD are so weird...

Yeah, we are.  We KNOW it.  I recently joined a Facebook group for Adults with ADHD and I tell you, it's my new favorite group.  I am not alone in my weirdness!  These people are just like me!  It's so wonderful to find a place where I fit.  Yes, I have tons of friends... who love me most from a distance, yes, I know you are nodding your head like yeah, I love you Cat, but too much Cat is too much Cat... I can count on one hand my very best friends who actually enjoy my company often... and now that I think about it, most of them are probably ADHD or already loves someone with ADHD.  I'm not saying that it's bad thing that I drive people bonkers... because I get it.  Even more so now, so don't feel bad if you feel that way about me, I understand.

People with my kind of ADHD, yeah, it's kind of a spectrum, are extremely loyal to their loved ones.  In fact, so much so, that we often have what is called, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.  It means: "extreme emotional pain of perceived rejection is a feeling unique to people with ADHD."  It can be debilitating and catastrophic.  It happened to me once about 7 years ago... click here to refresh your memory. If we feel rejected or betrayed by someone we love and care about, we have a complete melt down.  I mean, really bad stuff.  Many can even end up hospitalized for it.  I had actually had a mini episode a couple months ago when a family member criticized the way I was parenting my ADHD boys.  I was able to pull myself together after a few hours, and I forced myself to let it go... but it was really hard!

I could go on and on about what makes different and how our brains work, I've been dealing and coping my whole life thinking that I was just weird... but I'll save that for another time.

So what made me get all these really bad symptoms these last nine months?  What was different after November that set me off?

I stopped drinking my diet soda.  That's it.  Simple really. I was self-medication myself for MANY years without even knowing it.  I drank over a hundred ounces a day of Diet Coke (embarrassing confession)... because it made me feel calm and collected.  I had to quit to lose the weight.  Not a day went by that I didn't crave a sip... but not because I was thirsty, it was because I craved the calm it gave me.  Without it, I was flying blind.  Going insane because I didn't know what was wrong with me.  I couldn't focus.  I couldn't finish any projects.  I was discontent for no reason.  People bothered me.  Facebook stressed me out beyond reason.  I struggled to leave my house.  I couldn't sleep at night and then sleep too much in the morning.  And I couldn't pull myself together.  It was tough on all of us.  Caffeine was my life saver for YEARS.

Could You or a family member have ADHD?

Maybe.  I am not a doctor so I can't tell you.  But if you think you might, read those articles I linked above and listen to the pod cast.  Do your kids have it?  Then chances are you might.  I suggest you study up on it.  Ask your doctor for an evaluation and go from there.  If you have it, it is VITAL that you get diagnosed ASAP so you can get any help you may need.  You may feel like you can handle it now, but you never know when life happens and can set you off.  Also, I highly suggest the YouTube channel called How to ADHD... she is hilarious and very informative!!  My boys have a HUGE crush on her.  Also, follow the ADDitude page on Facebook for lots of great articles about ADHD.

What am I going to do now?

I am going to continue living my life to the fullest.  I am going to get out of bed every morning and choose to have good days.  I am going to continue to homeschool my boys and support my husband in his career.  I am going to pull out all my hundreds of unfinished projects (another big symptom of ADHD) and I am going to finish them!  I am going to FINALLY write and complete a novel!  I am going to help and educate others about ADHD and the symptoms and encourage people to get the help they or their family needs to live a semi-normal life.  I am going to utilize my strengths that I didn't know I had, and have a great life.  I am going to stop being so hard on myself, I am unique and that's okay!!  That is my plan, and I'm sticking to it! (At least until I get bored and make a new plan... *wink wink*)

-Cat




Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding My Style

Let me be the first one to admit that know next to zero about fashion.  I've never worn the "in" things simply because by the time I figured out what was "in" it was already "out".  I tried through elementary school to be one of the cool kids, and failed quite miserably.  Mainly, because I was largely on the chunky size, and in the eighties, it was REALLY hard to find jeans and cute clothes for chunky kids.  I wore leggings all through elementary, and I think it wasn't until I was in probably 6th or 7th grade until I really started wearing jeans... actually make that 8th grade...




In high school, mid nineties, I adopted the grunge look, much to my mom's displeasure and sported huge skater pants, tie-dyed tees, huge hoodies... anything to hide my stomach rolls and other body imperfections.  At this point, I stopped caring so much what others thought.


Then I became a jeans and t-shirt gal.  All through college, that was what I wore.  I gave up on trying to fashionable in most ways, and just wanted to look normal, presentable, and pleasant.  On my mission, I wore dresses and skirts for 18 months, then when I got home it was back to jeans.

Yoga pants and HUGE jeans became my go-to's when I got married and pregnant, and things just never really changed from there.  When you're morbidly obese, you really have little choice in clothes.  You wear what you can to look decent and comfortable and then you don't think about it.  It didn't matter what I wore, I felt fat and ugly.  There came a point where I wouldn't hardly leave my house, and I refused to get my picture taken or even look in the mirror.  I was so horrified.  I was so unhappy.  And I felt like I lived in a prison.

Now, I have lost well over a hundred pounds.... but I have about sixty more until my goal weight.  I thought, with all our kids and expenses, there was no way I could afford a whole new wardrobe.  I wanted to just suck it up until I got to my goal weight.  I mean, I had some smaller jeans from when I was thinner last time, I could wear those and just work with what I had in my closet.

But one day about a month ago, Ben came home I was wearing my "fat clothes" and he told me I looked like a total frump and I needed new clothes.  I went to Walmart and bought a $4 t-shirt.  He told me that was pathetic.  But I seriously have major anxiety about spending money, especially on myself.  It drives me crazy, and I actually lose sleep over purchases sometimes if I feel they aren't justified.  When you spend the last 13 years pinching every penny that comes your way, it becomes a habit.

After a heated argument over my frumpy wardrobe, Ben and I came to a compromise. That I would get a small budget for clothes and if I used it wisely, shopping sales and such, I could get a few new shirts, pants, and a dress or skirt.  So for a few days I thought about where I would go, when all of a sudden I realized that I don't even know what I like... or what I want... what is my look?  What is my taste?  I spent a few days online looking around on online stores, and nothing really stood out at me.  Then by chance I stumbled upon a website, and I can't find it again for the life of me, about shopping for vintage clothes and how to rock the looks with a touch of modern.  For those of you who know me, you know that I have my education in History and anthropology, so this idea fascinated me beyond explanation!  So I started researching on how to find and identify vintage clothes by their make, style, fabric, and clothing labels/tags.  I was HOOKED!  Couldn't wait for Ben to get off work, so I could go to the local Goodwill's and thrift stores to see what I could find with all my new knowledge.  I spent less than $200 and I replaced my entire wardrobe with vintage clothes, and vintage inspired clothes... and I couldn't be more pleased!!  But not nearly as happy as my penny pinching hubby who was beaming with pride at all the deals I got.

So what is considered "vintage"??  Anything older than 20 years... so yeah, my junior prom dress is now vintage... wow, that makes me feel old.

Now, having lived through the 80's, I can't bring myself to wear any of it, unless it is Victorian inspired, which I have found quite a few lovely blouses from the 80's with high necks and beautiful lace.  But the rest... yeah, not there yet.

Victorian inspired lace top.  NOT vintage, but super cute!
This lace top is vintage 80's. This was a fun look for a church picnic.
Same lace top as above looked great over my 50's inspired swimsuit and large sun hat.

However, I have found some really nice 60's and 70's pieces!
1970's vintage blouse with modern day flares.  Peace!

Late 70's-early 80's vintage blouse with modern day black leggings.
I couldn't resist a little Farrah flip with my hair... but I kind of failed. 

Here I am this morning, sporting a sleeveless late 60's early 70's vintage dress with a black
undershirt and modern day black leggings.
Now, for the record.  I don't dress up every day.  In fact, these styles only really lasted a few minutes because with 5 boys, jeans and a t-shirt is just so much safer.  Already my little guy has broken some of my jewelry and peed on my nice clothes.... So I just play dress-up for a few minutes every few mornings to remind me that I am not just a Cinderella mom, but that there is a women underneath the yoga pants that wants to feel pretty every now and then.  I feel vain and stuck up taking these selfies... and probably even more like an idiot because I don't know what to do with my hands and arms... but my mother-in-law encouraged me to take them and share if only to let people know that there are some very cool clothes to be found at second hand stores, I seriously only paid less than $2 for each of these pieces above.  The last dress, I only paid 25 cents!!!  AND the best part... vintage clothes are usually one of a kind.  So no one is going to be showing up to the party in the same outfit I am.  How sweet is that?!

Still trying to figure myself out, but I think I have found a love and a place in my heart for the vintage look... if clothes could only talk, the stories they would tell!

-Cat

PS -- for the record, I'm really not a vain and stuck up person... When I look in the mirror now, I'm not thinking how wonderful I am, because I know I am TOTALLY not!  When I see my reflection I think, wow, I finally see ME!  And I smile because I'm so stinking happy about it!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Becoming Visible

Ran a 5K this weekend with my BFF Jessica -- In the RAIN!
It was AWESOME!
When you're fat, people either stare with a snare, stare with pity, or advert their eyes and pretend they don't see you. It's hurtful to feel like a non-person.  Like you exist, but you don't.  To walk around life, and feel invisible.

The soldiers, for the most part, try to be polite by just not looking.  I could go anywhere around post and people just pretended I wasn't there.  (Unless they were secretly taking pictures of me to shame me online later -- which I didn't notice happening, and I'm really glad).  When I visited Ben at his office, the soldiers would smile and be kind and complement the boys, but not one... NOT ONE would look me in the eyes.

Ben overheard one guy poking fun of me once behind his back, and he shut him down so fast no one dared to speak less than favorable about me... at least when he was around.  And no, Ben didn't just come home and tell me what happened, he would never have mentioned it and I don't know what the soldier said, but I asked Ben once if the guys ever made fun of me, and my dear husband can't lie to me to save his life... he said, "Once... but I squared him away."  That is Ben's way of saying he probably made the kid pee himself.

But I didn't go visit him at work again after that.  And I refused to go to any of the military balls.  I was so afraid I would ruin Ben's career by being fat... I was afraid that his men would lose confidence in him because of his taste in women.  My husband said I was totally full of crap, because there are wives bigger than me, but I didn't believe him.  My weight made me feel so self-conscious I just couldn't go to Army things, even thinking of going put me in a panic attack and throwing up.

I know, I should of sucked it up and just did it.  But, I just couldn't.

Being fat is more than just physical.  It consumes a person mentally and emotionally.

When I first started seeing the weight loss doctor and nutritionist, they sent me to see a psychologist once.  No, I'm not crazy.  It's totally standard when going through the process I did.  They want to cover all the bases because being morbidly obese didn't just happen because it wanted to happen.  In MOST cases, people become fat because of events in their lives, many completely out of their control, and it triggers the bad eating habits.  I have meet many other morbidly obese people in my journey (support groups) and they tell me it all started when a loved one died, or they were abused, raped or molested as a child.  One women said it started when her parents divorced.  Another man started overeating when his wife left him... etc, etc.  There is a story behind each and every person that struggles.  I was one of the lucky ones, my journey was because of underlining health reasons.  I almost felt like an outsider in the support groups... but I learned so much about not judging, and being a little more kind and patient with people who struggle with this disease, food addictions, and similar disorders.

I was lucky, my issues weren't so bad that I needed to continue seeing the psychologist, but many, MANY others struggling with serious underlining issues NEED the help mentally and emotionally to get a hold of themselves and get in that place they need to be internally to get the weight off physically... or it will never STAY off permanently.

Anyway....

Back on topic...

I have felt invisible for a very, VERY long time.  I almost forgot what it felt like to be looked at, really truly SEEN by other people.

The best part about being in the Army life, is that we move so much... no one here at Fort Sill know I used to be fat, unless I tell them, that is.  I lost the majority of my weight at Campbell, so with each move I start fresh.  No one here looks at me and thinks, oh, yeah, she used to be fat.  Nope, just a normal woman now... and I LOVE that!  A fresh start ever couple years.  And now, when we move to Fort Bliss, TX (Yeah, we got orders last week!) in a couple months, I will just be that girl that runs with 5 boys.

Men are fickle, you know.  They say women are weird... but I'm telling you... they have this thing were they don't want to be too nice to anyone they don't think is cute because you know, we might get the wrong idea.  As if!  PAA.... LEEEEEASE!!  They think WAY to much of themselves.  I just want them to look at me politely when I talk to them... but apparently, their feet are way more attractive than I was.

For the last 4 years, my competition has been shoes.  And I got used to it.... so whatever.  But it was hurtful, you know?  I wanted so badly to look on the outside like I felt like the person I was in the inside.

Now, here I am over a hundred pounds later, and life is soooo different for me.  One would think it wouldn't, couldn't be too different.  Not now, living in a world where people SHOULD be more accepting and tolerant and loving and kind.... can you read my eye roll between those words??

I don't know when things changed really, the way people saw me.... I have been so focused on how I saw myself, that I guess I stopped thinking about what others thought.  It really didn't hit me until a couple days ago.

Sunday, I took a chance and tried on my old heels.  When I got fat, my feet got so big, I went up two sizes!!!  I couldn't wear heels because I was too heavy and they were too small.  But for church this week, I thought I would pull them out and give them a go.  They fit!!  Woo Hoo!!  The family was waiting for me out in the car, and I came out, and was totally strutting my stuff for my husband... because you know, who wouldn't right?!  When a bus of soldiers came around the corner... all heads turned and watched me as I walked to van.

Longest walk in the world.

"Do I have something stuck on my butt?"  I asked my husband, totally mystified as to why those guys were watching me.  He laughed.

"No!  They were totally checking you out!" He said.

"What?!  No they weren't!  Why?"  I am ashamed to admit, I was clueless...

"Because you're hot!"  He said chuckling to himself... "Yeah, I got me a sexy wife and now everyone knows it..." He snickered. The turd.

I seriously thought he was just teasing me and blew him off.  I mean, come on!  I am still about 60 pounds over weight.  So whatever.  Guys only check out skinny girls right?

Then this morning, Ben and I decided that after he came home from PT in the morning, I would go do my run while he got ready for work.  I just needed 30 minutes to get a good hard run in to start the day.  So I'm out there doing 60/120's to get my speed up (60/120's - interval training of 60 sec sprints and 120 sec fast walk) and it happened to be the time that the training convoys are going past... and all the buses transporting soldiers to and from breakfast are heading past me.  I felt suddenly VERY visible and self-conscious as they went by.  I couldn't even look at them, I was afraid they were making fun of the chunky girl running around.  So I looked away.  The couple times I did look, some of the soldiers waved and I thought, "Wow, people at Fort Sill are so friendly..."

When I ran around the corner to my house, my Garmin read 2.42 miles... I HAD to have an even 2.5... my little bit of runners OCD DEMANDED it.  So I ran around for about a min to round it out.  I started walking just as a mini bus came around the corner and the soldier in the front seat actually leaned out the window and called out to me waving.  My first thought was to look behind me too see who he was waving at.  Wait me? Did I know him?  No.... Was he flirting with me?  Impossible.... Right?!  I know... he was digging my striped compression socks... that's it!

I'm so blessed to have such a supportive husband who makes
me feel beautiful no matter what!
Has this invisible girl suddenly become visible??  I don't know how I feel about this?  It's new territory for me... Last time I was this size, I lived in Utah, and it was a whole different world.  Guys didn't smile and wave at me, they just treated me like a person, which was nice...but I was never skinny enough to be considered a hot mama....   Here, it's just different....

And I'm not sure how I feel about this... it's just so weird....  Maybe I just look cuter from a distance, because seriously, I've got like 15 years on most of these guys around here... I'm getting to old for this....

-Cat





Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Comeback

Deep breath.

This is the bravest post I have ever written.

No one likes to talk or dwell on their failures and weaknesses.  No one likes to admit their pain and their struggles.  No one likes to succeed, then fall flat on their face, tumble down that hill they struggled to climb, only to try again and again and never quite make it to the top... and certainly, we don't like to share those experiences.

Total and utter humiliation is what I have lived with for a few years now.  Sometimes, my failures hurt so badly, I find it hard to breath... and I'm not talking about my asthma either.  I'm talking about my weight-loss/ weight-gain roller coaster journey.

Most of my long time readers are familiar with my life-time struggle with weight.  You can read about my journey here -- but it stops a few years ago, because I have been too ashamed to talk about where I got to after losing weight and running a half marathon back in 2013 -- BEST summer of my life!!

Then I got pregnant, twice in a row, and gained a ton a weight back.  I blogged about it here.  I resolved to get it off, and I really, REALLY tried.  And it just wouldn't come off.  I'd lose a little and then gain a ton back.  I fell into a depression and wouldn't hardly leave my house.  I was so humiliated.  It was worse that I lived in a military community where over-weight wives are publicly shamed.  I am not kidding.  There are some female soldiers and other military wives that sneak pictures of the overweight ones at the store or gym and post them on a "Dependapotomos" (that's what they call the fat military wives) website and everyone makes fun of them.  I kid you not, it's a thing! I don't know if I even made an appearance on there, and I pray I never find out, but it was a deep fear of mine.

You can't look at a fat person and KNOW them.  Each one of us has a story to tell, and it will probably break your heart... but then again, sometimes our stories can inspire.

So, here is my update.

It's been over a year since I posted about my weight loss/ fitness goals.  I can honestly say, this year was not only the hardest of my life, but also the most rewarding and amazing.

Last June/July, I did the hardest thing I have ever done.  I went home to Utah weighing the highest I had ever weighed: 324 pounds.  I was sick about the trip.  When I had left Utah, 3 years prior I had been in the best shape of my life having just run my first Half.  And here was over a hundred pounds heavier.  It was the most humiliated experience of my life.

No, my family didn't judge me... my biggest critic was myself.

It was there, at that moment, that I made a choice... that would change my life forever.  My family and friends in Utah were NEVER EVER going to see me like this again.  I was going to do everything I could to change this.

Rewind a year.  I don't remember if I blogged about this, but I went to my PCP (Primary Care Physician) and I told her that I was doing all in my power to lose weight and I was actually gaining.  She was so rude to me and I quote: "You are what you eat, Mrs. Lang.  Calories in equals calories out.  Ignorance is no excuse for being morbidly obese."  I was so stunned I couldn't speak and I started balling when she left.  I felt so trapped and I knew something was wrong with my body and the doctor just saw this fat girl and assumed I was downing big macs.  I was in a prison and no one would help me.

I gave up.  I tried to work out and I was so heavy that I got heel spurs and did some damage to my bones in the hips and back.  I was living in a nightmare.  After going back to Utah, I came home with a strong will and determination.  I called my PCP, and they had THANKFULLY got me a new one (found out later that the beast before got FIRED!  Can I just say: Karma!), and I told her straight out that there was something wrong with me.  I wrote a whole portfolio of my weight loss journey, all the stuff I tried, my complete history!  I was prepared and I wasn't leaving until she helped me.  I told her I didn't want pills, I wanted to know why my body wasn't responding to my efforts and I wanted to see someone who could help me.

She said yes.  SHE. SAID. YES!!

I got a BUNCH of testing done.

Turns out, I have.... drum roll.....

Hashimoto thyroiditis aka Hashimoto's Disease.

It went undetected my WHOLE life because I was already on the meds to treat my Hypothyroidism-- same meds treat both.  But the big difference is that hypothyroidism can be a symptom of the Hashimoto's and when it comes to what you should and shouldn't eat it can make a HUGE difference.  Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease and it's not common in young people, that's why I wasn't tested for it when I was a teenager and the problems first started.  It is when your body thinks that your thyroid gland is the enemy, so your body produces antibodies to fight it and kill it.  For those of you who don't know what the thyroid does, it produces a hormone that regulates your metabolism and it's located in the front of your neck and throat.  So basically, even though I have been taking the hormone replacement pill since I was 16 (late 30's now), the hashimoto's has been under control in the way that my thyroid won't swell and I am alive.  However, after getting my metobolism tested, turns out it is basically not functioning at all, hence the weight-gain and lack of loss.  My PCP told me that my weight problem isn't my fault.  This time I started crying... but happy tears.

It wasn't my fault.

So what I could I do?  I couldn't live my life like this any more.  I didn't recognize that person in the mirror... it just wasn't who I was.

She referred me to a weight loss specialist in Nashville at Vanderbilt, who specialized in cases like mine, and he along with a nutritionist gave me the tools to get out of this pit of despair and change my life forever.

It wasn't easy.

I had to give up a lot!!  No more diet coke (hardest thing for me), no more breads or pastas or even crackers.  No more ANYTHING with soy.  No sugar.  No chocolate. I can only drink water, and an occasional Power-aid Zero after a workout.  I have to keep track of everything I eat and drink and I have to get in lots of protein a day.  It's hard.  But it is SOOOO worth it.

Heel spurs? Gone.

Hip issues?  Gone.

Hashimoto's and Thyroid? Under control.

Asthma?  So much better.

So a year later... after my worst embarrassment of my life:  the people I love the most seeing me at my ultimate worst:





Fast forward to today...

I decided my goal for the summer was to once again do a half marathon... so into training mode I go!!  Today, was my four mile run.  I mastered the 5K these last couple weeks -- my time still isn't where I want it to be, but it will come in time with my training schedule.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do 4 miles.  We are in Oklahoma in June.  It's hot, humid, and muggy.  However, my spirits were lifted with an overcast and a nice breeze.  I told my husband to map out a four mile route for me with no hills.  I just didn't think I was there yet.

This was my first time actually running outside where people could see me in almost 4 years.  I was really nervous, especially running on post on Saturday morning with all the Army peeps seeing me as they ran or drove by... or even the ones playing golf (my path took me around a course).

Let's start off by saying my husband is a trickster and a liar-liar-pants.

"The only hill is a slight incline coming home... and there is a huge down hill here... super easy route... a total breeze."

Liar. Liar. Pants. On. Fire.

Not a hill run? I call BS.  Look at my proof:


Okay, so I admit, they aren't HUGE hills to normal people, but for me, they were steep and beastly.

I was a little mile into it when the clouds parted and out came the sun and a big-a hill.  I cursed him in an un-Mormon way under my breath.  Then came hill numero 2.  A real killer and I don't think I would have made it but not for my stubborn streak.

Then there was a nice down hill....

But when I hit my 5K mark, the humidity got to me and I had a minor asthma episode and had to speed walk for a few minutes while my inhaler kicked in -- so glad I thought to bring it.  Then I started running again... and came up to the last hill to my house.  I said a prayer in my mind, that the Lord would give me strength to run and some wings to fly because, heck, I was really going to need some divine help!

And He did.  I flew up the last hill and hit my four miles in exactly the goal time I was going for!!  Hills and all, thank you very much.

I may not look like her, but I sure felt like Wonder Woman today!

Half Marathon, here I come!!

Oh, and you are probably wondering what I look like now?

Here I am today:



After my run today in all my sweat and glory! (Don't be jealous of my hair... lol)

I am not yet where I want to be... but I am 2/3rds of the way there!  And I'll get there -- to the top of the proverbial hill, and this time, I'll make it to the top!!  The journey... well, it's amazing and I am enjoying every minute of it!  I feel so blessed and thankful for the Lord and all He has done for me and the strength He has given me to try try again.  And I am so thankful for my husband who loved me and supported me even when I was at my heaviest and who believes in me more than I believe in myself... even if he has to trick me sometimes to discover my strength on my own.

Now, I'm not giving any numbers, so don't ask me.  One thing I learned on my journey this time is that the scale is just a number... it doesn't measure my worth, my potential, or how far I have come emotionally and spiritually.  And it certainly can't tell me who I am or how I should feel about myself.  Only I can answer that question.

So...

Moral of the story:  Don't let ANYONE tell you you can't.  Your biggest advocate is yourself.  Stand up and do what you have to do for yourself and your health.  Don't let any stigmas of getting professional help keep you from getting it if you need it!!  This is YOUR life!  Be the leading lady or leading man to your personal story and be your own hero.  If I can do it with Hashimoto's, Asthma, heel spurs, and everything else that comes with all of the above, you can do it too!

-Cat

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Being an Introvert Among Extroverts


I'm not shy.  I have no problem socializing, in fact, I really enjoy spending time with friends chatting and doing playgroups once in a while.  I love going to church meetings on Sunday.  My husband and kids are my world! And nothing thrills me like running a good race among peers...

But I am an introvert, and sometimes it's a real struggle... mostly for everyone else.  I have no issues with being a introverted homebody.  I love reading, writing, art, running.... spending quiet nights with the hubby after the kiddos are in bed -- I LIVE for these moments.  But I think my extrovert friends really have a hard time understanding and they get impatient with me.  I don't know why, but I feel like they just can't grasp where I am coming from... and they look at me like I'm a crazy weirdo.  It's so uncomfortable.  I understand extroverts and their needs to be out and about and around people and keeping busy doing things and volunteering for everything under the sun.  Lots of my friends live for the moments when they are heading up a PTA committee or getting out for a girl's weekend out on the town hitting the movies, spas, and/or the latest concert.  I know they get their vibe and energy from being around others.  I get it.  I really do.  It's perfectly okay and fine. However, it seems like they don't understand introversion as well as we understand extroversion.  I don't know why. But, to me, all that rejuvenates the extroverts, just sounds EXHAUSTING... and not in a good way.  So here I am writing this, to help my extrovert friends try to understand just a little about me and people like me.

Introverts are a minority in a world where Extroverts are the norm.  We don't care really, we just like to be left alone for the most part to do our thing.  But Extroverts seem to think we have some kind of personality disorder, or we are just shy (shyness and introversion are NOT the same thing), or that we are standoffish and rude.  This is simply not true.  People and crowds exhaust us.  We get our peace and energy from solitude.  Introversion is not something that needs to be cured.  It's who we are, and the world needs people like us to keep the balance.  I truly believe we are some of the most misunderstood people ever.

For years, I struggled to come to grips with not wanting what everyone else wanted.  My loved ones who were more outgoing, just could not understand me.  It doesn't matter what I say, they think I am making up excuses and they take my lack of interest as a personal insult.  They thought I was weird.  I hate feeling like I didn't measure up to their expectations as a person because I didn't like the same things they did.  And sometimes, it's makes me feel guilty and sad, and a little depressed... for just being me.  Like I have a serious problem.  It hurts to feel judged for something I can't help and I really don't feel like this is such a bad part of me that I need to change.  This is who I am.

A few years ago, I made a decision that I won't let it bother me anymore.  And so far, it's been okay.  But once in a while my resolve slips and I feel like a total dud.  One of my problems is that sometimes I feel like a bad Mormon -- and I consider myself a pretty good girl.  I attend church regularly, I pray alone and with my family, we do family night, we study the scriptures together and on our own, and I am worthy to hold a current recommend to attend the temple, which I do when I can.  I live my life the best to my abilities, and I strive to be a good wife and mother and continue to develop my talents and discover new ones.  I am kind to others and I try to help those in need.  I am honest and I go out of my way compliment others.  I try not to judge those with struggles that are different than mine, because I know how it feels to have it done to me.

So....

Here's my big confession...

I don't enjoy attending big church parties... or any big parties.  When our church holds big conferences, I am not there.  While all my friends are posting pictures and thrilled to be at the big General Conference in Salt Lake City in the spring or fall, I think: better you than me.  Just the thought of trying to drive in downtown Salt Lake and find a parking space gives me so much anxiety I can hardly breathe.  When they have local conferences on a smaller level, we stay home because I just can't cope. It might be different if I didn't have 5 boys with 3 dealing with some special needs... but sitting in a hot crowded room for 2 hours is more than I can handle.

Now, don't try to talk me into it.  Don't try to give me well meaning advice on how I can do it anyway if I do such and such thing.  Don't tell me I love Jesus less because I'm not going... I've heard it all.  I am a happy person.  I like myself... we've been through a lot: me, myself, and I.  We've overcome a lot.  And I will over come even more in my time... in. my. time.  Not yours or anyone else's. Mine. Or maybe I will never get used to it, and that's okay too.  Because I am a unique person and my family loves me and that is what matters to me the most.

My greatest strength and comfort is knowing that I am good enough anyway.  I am by no means perfect, but I know that the Lord knows my struggles, my weaknesses, my pains... He knows my strengths, my abilities.  He knows my potential and He knows my heart.  I am not ashamed of how I am... I just want those around me to know that I love them, I just show my love differently.  And just because I am not a party person or attend every church event, I really do care and your love and your life matters to me.

And my husband adores me and loves my silly quirks... most of them anyway...

So my beloved Extrovert friends, here are a few tips on how to deal with and understand me and people like me:

1. Don't stop inviting me!!  You'd be surprised, but sometimes I do need some social fun time and I will say yes.  And if I don't, the thought really did make me feel loved and wanted and included.

2. If I don't want to come, PLEASE don't take it personally.  It really is ME, not you.

3. Visitors in my house are always welcome!  We introverts love one on one time and deep, meaningful conversions. I love people to visit me and I will probably feed you too!  Cooking for others brings me a lot of joy!

4.  Run a race with me, but don't be offended when I put in my headphones and zone you out.  Remember:  lots. of. people.... I have to go into my own world when I run... and I count my breaths with my steps or I get side cramps.  But if you match my pace, I will stay by your side and we can cross the finish line together.

5.  Even though I'm not on the front row at church or at such and such church event, I still have a strong testimony of the gospel.  My religion is in everything I do and every choice I make.  I love my Mormon faith very deeply... sometimes, I just worship a little different than you do.

6.  If it's important to you, it's important to me and I will try be there.  I may feel uncomfortable and leave the event a little early, but I will be there for the most important parts.  (Unless it's out of state, then sorry... but my thoughts will be with you!)

7.  Being an introvert doesn't mean I am shy.  I am totally not shy.  And I actually like public speaking... I just don't like sitting in the crowds, and small talk is awkward to me.  But talk to me about something important or meaningful, and I will open up.

8.  Introverts make the best of friends!  I may seem stand offish at times, but I'm not.  I'm probably just tired or thinking extra hard.  But I am always listening to you, and I feel your concerns, I cry with you, I laugh with you, and I rejoice in your successes with you.  Introverts aren't big on gossiping, so we are very true and loyal friends.

9.  Your fun isn't always our fun and that's alright.  We can still be good friends!  Because friendship is based on so much more than just that.

10.  This introvert loves to share and teach others.  Why hog all my talents and abilities to myself when I can SHARE with people.  Come over anytime and I will teach you what I know about crocheting, art, homeschooling, or whatever... and we LOVE to learn new things, so teach me something I don't know how to do!  (Like, please, come help my decorate my house!!)

11. Introverts are not lazy.  This one myth really irritates me.  Just because we aren't out getting involved in everything, it doesn't mean we aren't working hard in another area.  I keep busy all day long.  If I'm not schooling the kiddos, I am cleaning, cooking, reading, painting, playing with babies, running errands, doing projects, etc.

12. People like me, we don't like talking on the phone.  Don't take it personally.  Please.  We hardly answer it because the ringer is on mute (which drives some spouses crazy, no names...) but send us a text message and we are all over it! And because we are a reliable bunch, for the most part, people usually only call us if they want something.  This is hurtful, even if it isn't intentional, it makes us feel a little used.  We absolutely love people to text or message us just because they are thinking of us and want to know how we are doing.  But don't email and expect an immediate reply... we kind of hate email.

13. We park at the very back of the parking lot, not because we want the extra exercise (although that is a perk) but because we don't like the crowds near the front.

13.  We hate confrontation and contention.  We don't like talking to angry people or debate.  We just don't.  So if you post something on Facebook that could start a fight, don't be offended if we don't join in.  Even though we hold very strong opinions about things, we aren't big on sharing them publicly.

14.  We NEED alone time.  It's essential for us to function and it's our way of recharging our energy.  So if you see me and I'm frazzled after a day of homeschooling, just run... it's safer that way.

15.  Contrary to popular thought, we make excellent leaders, because we think things out and stick to our guns.

16. Please don't pressure us to do things we don't want to do.  It just makes us angry and resentful.  When we say no, or we don't feel like going somewhere or doing something, move on.  I can't tell you how many hurt feelings (on both sides) start with this conversation:

Friend: "Hey, are you going to so-and-so's BBQ tonight?"
Me: "No, I don't think so, not tonight."
(What they should have said: "Okay!  Well, I'll miss you!!  Maybe next time!" -- what they really say:)
Friend: "Why not?"
Me: "I really just want to hang out with my family and relax tonight.  Maybe soak in a hot bath."
Friend: "Ok... well, you should come anyway!  It will be soooooo fun!  Hanging out at home is no fun."
Me: "I'm just tired, and I am not in the mood. Please understand, I just don't feel up to going."

Then said friend won't talk to me for a week or two and both of us aren't haven't kindly feelings toward each other.  Please accept no as an appropriate answer and understand once again, that it REALLY isn't you, it's me.

17.  We know all the best days to shop at Target, Walmart, and the grocery store (when there are less people, naturally), the mall is exhausting, and we hate going to movies on the opening weekends (again too many people).  We do most of our shopping on Amazon, order our take out on an app, and like to make things as hassle free as possible.  Black Friday is a no go.  Cyber Monday is God's gift to the introverts.

I am truly sorry if I unintentionally offended any of my friends by my introvert ways... I never, ever, intend to hurt anyone.  I truly try my best.  Even as a mother with an extrovert son... I am constantly stepping out of my comfort zone to help him feel loved.  My Sam (11 yrs old) is a very touchy-feely kind of kid and as an Introvert, I'm just not... But Sam wants to snuggle with me all the time and he loves on me and sometimes even does this purring sound.  It's awkward for me, but I take some deep breathes and try to relax because he NEEDS to feel me loving him.  Love languages and all that... so I understand doing things sometimes, not because I want to, but because I love the people who need me to step it up and step outside my zone of comfort. I will always strive to understand, you, my person I love. So every time I go out with you on a girl's night, or I give you a hug, know that I REALLY love you to do those things for you... and I always will.

-Cat

Here are some FANTASTIC articles about Introverts that are far more eloquent than I am:

What is an Introvert?
6 Illustrations that Show What's it's Like in an Introvert's Head
Nine Signs You're Really an Introvert
Carrying for Your Introvert (This is my favorite one!! So read it... right now!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Operation: Gnome Garden

Traditionally known as Fairy Gardens, I thought it would be fun to tweak the tradition and make it Nutshell style... so Operation: Gnome Garden was born.

I have been thinking for a few weeks now about what I wanted to do with the boys for a fun summer project with disguised learning involved.  The last two summers we did the vegetable garden, and this year I wanted to do something new but super cool.

The history of Fairy Gardens started back in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair.  There was a bonsai tree display in the Japanese Pavilion, which was so popular the the New York Times did a feature about it and the tradition was born. 

What is a fairy garden??  Basically, it's a miniature garden with tiny structures and live plants.  The tradition is, that you can lure a fairy or two to take care of it, bless it with their magic, and bring everyone luck.

I would like to add to that tradition, and tweak it my favor for ultimate coolness.  Remember, I have five boys... who love all boy stuff... and "fairies" aren't very manly.  So I changed it, to the legend of Gnome gardens.  Because gnomes are grumpy little men who stomp around, create mischief, and make messes... they have so much in common with my kids.  Practically soulmates.  Just sayin'.

Okay, so my boys are very believing in the magical side of life.  Those of you who have read this blog for a while, know that they are really into Santa, Elf on the Self, and other mystical beings that come bearing gifts in baskets and taking baby teeth.  So it wasn't hard to confidence them of the Legend of the Gnome Garden.  I explained to them that if we got a pot, filled it with dirt, put a house on it, then either a fairy or a gnome would come move in.  They seriously thought this was the most awesome thing on the planet.  I told them that I wasn't sure there were many fairies in Oklahoma, so we would probably get a gnome, and they were pumped.  Now, I'm not a total idiot.  I have my suspicions that the older two boys may know I am full of crap, but they are excellent sports and play along for the little ones... or they may be totally snookered after all... I can't tell... yet.

So, how to get started....

Like any self-respecting woman who is coming up with a crafty plan, I got on Pinterest... and hit the mother load.  (You can check out my Fairy Garden Board here!)  I got all sorts of ideas, and then made them my own.

Warning:  Your neighbors will most likely think you are a crazy person.  Mine thinks we are soooo weird... and I'm pretty sure only 30% of that is because we are Mormons.  The rest is the crazy projects we are conducting on the front porch and of course, if you read my post yesterday, because of the haunting claims... should have kept my mouth shut... and now the Gnome garden... I can't help but chuckle to think about it... hehehe

Anyway, fellow awesome people... let's begin!

First step:

Get a pot!!  I looked at Goodwill, Walmart, and Target before I went to a ranch/farm store and found the one I wanted for a reasonable price.  I wanted a big metal round one. (See pictures below)

Second step:

Get potting soil enough to fill your pot, and a bunch of medium sized rocks (rocks optional, but important if you want to make the working wishing well).  When my husband isn't a soldier, he's a hydro-geologist... his specialty is understanding underground water and fluid movements, so I had him design an amazing watering system.

Third step (optional):

This is where we started making the wishing well... we had to have at least part of it made before we put in the rocks and soil. 

What you will need for the well:
 -1 2 in PVC pipe and 1 1 1/2 in ABS pipe that will fit inside one another.  We got a 2 in one (pvc white) and an 1 1/2 in one (ABS black) -- mostly because I wanted it to look dark if you looked down the well.  You will have to cut them the depth of the pot... the 2 in one to the depth of the top of the soil line, and the 1 1/2 in one cut to how tall you want your wishing well base.  The 2 in pipe will be underground from the beginning and the smaller one with the well made on top will fit down inside. 
- A 1 1/2 in plug that will fit into the bottom of the 1 1/2 in pipe... we actually had to super glue a flimsy one in and drilled holes in it for water to escape.  The plug is to capture coins when the kids make wishes so they can be later retrieved by pulling up the well.

We cut the pipes to the lengths we needed, and drilled holes up and down them. Sorry, I didn't take pictures of the process... 


Forth step:

Place your container where you want it, it can be indoors or outside.  But it's going to be heavy so make sure you like your spot.  We went up into the mountains, and LEGALLY collected some medium sized rocks.  We placed them on the bottom of the pot, this is so the water is more evenly distributed.  If you are placing a well, stand the 2 in pipe up where you want it into the rocks.  Now start filling the pot with the soil and patting it down.


Fifth Step:

Get rocks, marbles, shells, sticks, whatever you want to decorate your garden -- I hit the jackpot at the Dollar Tree!!  I got a ton of little rocks that I used to make the house, wishing well, and path.  I also got marbles and other cool stuff to magically add to the garden later.

Sixth Step:

Get little plants and flower seeds.  I got most of mine at Lowe's.  Do some research to find what you want, every area has different choices depending on climate.  I wanted live moss, but in Southern Oklahoma that was a no go, so I ordered some from a lady on Etsy (link to her shop here).  It is on it's way, so I will keep you updated! Need plant ideas?  See this link here!

Seventh Step:

Plant your plants.  I secretly planted the flower seeds, thought my kids would be surprised when they popped up later.  And do a little landscaping.  

In the picture above you can see where we placed the plants, some of the rocks we collected, and the beginnings of the well.

Eighth step:

This is where we filled it with water!  Down the hatch!!  Or wishing well, anyway... we filled the well with 2 utility buckets full of water before the water stayed in the well.  The ground was now saturated with underground water for the plants, and wishing well fun!  With the plug glued in the bottom of the 1 1/2 in pipe, any coins can be later retrieved by pulling up the well.  To water the TOP side of the well, I ordered a mist-spray bottle... here is the link: CoreGear Personal Water Mister Spray Bottle.
And it is SOOOOO awesome!  After spraying all my kids, I tried it out on the Gnome Garden and it kept everything nice and wet without making it look like a hurricane came through.

Ninth Step:

Make the house and finish the well.  I actually started this at the beginning, because it took me DAYS to finish it!!  There are a MILLION ways to make your house and your well if you want.  Be creative!  I found lots of great ideas on Pinterest! (see my page link above).  But this is how I did mine:

What you will need:

House:
-Some kind of plastic container.  I used a Great Value Ammonia bottle.
-Large Funnel for the roof:  I found mine at the Dollar Tree.
-Little Rocks: once again Dollar Tree to the rescue!
-Grout: got mine at Lowes
-Paper Clay -- Hobby Lobby for roof
-Tin Foil
-Little sticks for door
-Button for door knob
-Watercolors
-Can of Polyurethane -- I got mine at Lowes

Clean and dry your container. Cut out the windows and partially the door, keep the hinge area attached.  Hot glue rocks around and up to where the roof will meet the rocks.
 Use paper clay to make the roof:
 First use tin foil to give the roof some extra shape before covering it with the clay.  I got some design ideas from this site here.
Let it dry over night, and if it cracks, fill in the cracks with extra clay:

Paint with watercolors or any other paint you choose, and after dry, coat with polyurethane to waterproof.

I don't have a picture, but we then used grout over the rocks and let it dry overnight.  For grout instructions, see this link here! Then hot-glued the sticks on the door with the button doorknob.  Cover the rocks and door with polyurethane to water proof:

We also hot-glued the roof on and plugged up the chimney as to not attract spiders.

Wishing well:
You will need-
-little rocks (same as house)
-tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks
-thimble for bucket
-piece of wire for the crank (we used a chunk of a wire hanger)
-thin piece of wire for the bucket handle
-piece of twine or string for bucket rope
-polyurethane 

After you have done all the pipe work, mark your inner pipe so you know where to put your rocks.  We built the roof first out of tongue depressors, then hot glued it on, then covered the bottom with the rocks when we hot glued them on.  Then after we glued the rocks on, we added the grout and painted the roof with watercolors.  After that dried, we covered the whole thing with polyurethane to waterproof it.  

My husband then drilled the holes for the bucket and assembled it.



Last night we placed the well and the house in the garden just before bed.  After the kids went to bed we worked a little magic....

And when they woke up, they ran out to check on the garden and were AMAZED and THRILLED that a little ladder had appeared over night!  A Gnome had come!! (Obviously, because Fairies fly and don't need ladders, duh).
Rope ladder made of twine and sticks...

We love our garden!  I will be posting updates on my Facebook page -- if you want to follow our progress!  Each day, something new will magically appear... And PLEASE share photos of what you come up with as well!

Also don't forget to check out my Pinterest board for more ideas!

-Cat

Update:  Day one, the ladder appeared.  Day two was this morning (Tuesday) and the boys woke up to a gravel path! (Found this pretty rocks at Dollar Tree)