Archive for September, 2011

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an IC related post, but I’ve been thinking about doing this one for the last few days. Ironically, I haven’t slept that great the last few days and I think that is in part because I’ve been thinking about what I should write on this post as I’m trying to fall asleep. So for the sake on my shut-eye, here you are.

If you have IC, it’s probably pretty likely that you dread falling asleep. While other chronic pain conditions might welcome the hours of rest, for IC sufferers, sleeping (or trying to fall asleep) is somewhere along the lines of mild torture. There have been nights where I’ve gone to the bathroom somewhere around twelve times. Other times where I have been in a cycle of laying down and immediately getting up to pee not even a minute later because the pain is so sudden and sharp.

I more or less dread going to bed.

You might be tempted into one of those knock you out for eight or more hours medicines like Ambien. Beware, my friends, beware. (Okay ignore everything I have to say and talk to a doctor. I make no claim to have a clue what I’m talking about). Ambien was working great for me for a while; I took it primarily on an as-needed basis when traveling. Then one night I accidentally took it ten minutes before I went to bed instead of immediately before and WHAM-O. The walls starting shimmering, the clothes in the closet started waving at me, the earth started tilting.

For all you kids out their thinking that it sounds like fun, let me tell you something – it was. For about 2 minutes. Then I thought my hand had become grotesquely deformed and I spent the rest of the night puking in the bathroom until I fell asleep. So no, not fun.

SO without anymore to-do, here are my tips for falling asleep. These are pretty much IC specific since we all know things like “close the blinds” and “have a bedtime routine” and “huff lavender.”

Don’t try the whole “no water for 6 hours before bed” thing

I seriously saw somewhere not to have anything to drink after 6 pm if you had frequent urination. Um, yeah right. For one, if you have IC, you are probably on Elavil which means you probably have dry mouth which means the idea of going 5+ hours without water is awful. For another, one IC related theory is that highly concentrated urine is more likely to cause flares. So if you dehydrate yourself, your urine will be much more concentrated and likely to burn you. So keep sipping on water throughout the night, though obviously don’t chug your water right before you try to fall asleep.

Think about when you take your meds

Okay, I’m bad about this so I’m only assuming it works. I tend to take all my medicine right before bed which means I amchugging a lot of water right before I fall asleep. I assume this is bad. Sometimes I try to remember to take it earlier in the night but usually I fail at that. So you try and let me know how it goes.

Try icy-hot

I use a little icy hot on my pelvic muscles and lower back before trying to fall asleep. It helps with the pain and cramping, if you have that.

Take some pain killers before bed

I’m not a doctor so disregard pretty much everything I say. But I find taking some aleve or tylenol in anticipation of feeling pain when I lie down helps me fall asleep quicker. If anything just because then I don’t have to get up to take it when I inevitably find myself in pain.

Do some yoga

I’ve gotten bad about this lately, but I find doing a little yoga before bed can help me fall asleep as well as stretch out my pelvic floor muscles. I usually do this routine:

The standing squat (half moon squat) position is great for stretching out your pelvis.

Put something under your knees

This is my best advice. If you are like me, laying down is fairly painful. Something about the way that your hips tilt and squish your bladder. I find that putting a rolled up blanket or pillow under my knees tilts my pelvis so it is flat and minimizes the pressure on my bladder. It’s been a life saver for me.

Stop sleeping on your side/stomach

I used to love sleeping on my side and stomach (besides it being terrible for your neck). Now I’ve realized that laying on my side means the weight of my hip is crushing my bladder. Obviously on your stomach, your whole body weight is crushing your bladder. So stick to laying on your back.

Don’t try to fall asleep right away

For the past four or so years, I have gotten up to go to the bathroom at least 2 or 3 times every night before falling asleep. I used to fight it, try to make myself fall asleep despite the burning pain in my bladder, and end up frustrated. Now I realize that its just going to happen as a result of laying down. So instead of attempting to doze off the minute my head hits the pillow, I give myself a few minutes to let my body adjust to being horizontal. So I use that time to talk and pray with my husband, get my lying on my side needs out of the way, and then I go to the bathroom one (hopefully) last time.

Have compassion for yourself

Sometimes it’s not one last time. Sometimes its the first of many. That’s just the way IC is. I try to take a non-judgmental approach to my frequent trips to the bathroom. Letting myself get angry, annoyed, and frustrated only adds to adrenaline which keeps me up even more. Letting it go and just doing it helps me remain relaxed and ready go back to sleep.


Don’t look at the clock when you get up

I have no tips for staying asleep all night. I get up to pee at least 2, often 3, sometimes 4, times a night (to all you pregnant women rolling your eyes at me – I’m not pregnant. This is what my life is like without a baby crushing my bladder!). So you will probably get up and go. And whenever I do, and look at the clock, I think “Crap. I’ve only been asleep half an hour.” Or “crap, I have to wake up in 2 hours.” But avoiding the clock means my mind never really kicks into gear and I fall asleep  quicker.

Clear a path to the bathroom

Every night before I fall asleep, I check my bathroom path to make sure it is free of debris and obstruction. Nothing like running into a table on your trip to the loo at 3am to make yourself hate your life.

Use Badger Sleep Balm

This is not really IC related, but 1. I love the smell. 2. I love the picture. 3. I love badgers even though I’ve never seen one and John likes to tell me they can attack and probably kill me.

Please share any tips you have for sleeping soundly!


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Cleaning out your closet. It’s a monthly, seasonally, annual, or maybe even only when you have to move, necessity. Sifting through old books, toys that haven’t been used in years, clothes that don’t fit, Halloween decorations that were once on sale and now just ugly. Our houses overflow with “stuff,” flowing out of drawers, seeping out of closets, peeking out of beds. And so every once and a while, we load up a few boxes and trash bags and drive it over to Goodwill.

And then we pat ourselves on the back. How generous. How kind of us. How thoughtful. Some poor unfortunate soul now has a new 20 year old London Fog jacket with a broken sipper. Lucky sap.

Let’s go buy something to celebrate.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t donate your used items. By all means, please do. Get rid of stuff you’ve practically forgotten about and give it someone who could actually put it to some good use. But let’s not fool ourselves into calling this charity. Charity comes from within, it is giving of who we are, of ourselves and our resources, of our time and our money and our abilities. It is giving of ourselves, not of our excess and our refuse.

C.S. Lewis puts it well:

I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditures exclude them. – Mere Christianity

Giving away what we have and don’t need, don’t use, don’t want is the minimum.

The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. Luke 3:11

If you have two coats, one belongs to the poor. – Dorothy Day

Getting rid of what we don’t use isn’t donating to charity. Its giving our things back to those who they belonged to in the first place.

Having worked on the receiving end of donations for a couple years, I can promise you – half the time it’s nothing to pat yourself on the back about. Unwashed hunting clothes? Great. A dog sweater for a homeless shelter? Fantastic. A large bean bag toy with the pellets spilling out? Why wouldn’t we want that?

When we are giving our things back, let’s be intentional in thinking about where to send them. Maybe your child’s old dance recital costumes would do better in a preschool’s dress up box instead of Goodwill. That hideous (but warm) jacket that no one would buy from a thrift store might be appreciated at a homeless shelter. And that stuff that you are pretty sure no one wants? Try posting it for free on Freecycle or Craigslist. You’ll be amazed at the stuff people want that would have otherwise gone in the trash.

I’m writing this to remind myself of it. Our resources are limited and so charity comes second to getting by ourselves. And so I need to remember that doing things like cleaning out my closet is not charity. It’s the minimum. And sometimes doing the minimum is what we need to do to get by and get through. But I need to remember that God is asking us to give ourselves and of who we are. And not just of the junk in our closets.

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Waiting for the Future

I want it to be midnight so I can get off work and go to bed.

I want it to be Wednesday so that my hellish week of working two jobs, two fifteen+ hour days, presenting in class, abstracts due and other assignments due, can begin to lighten up.

I want it to be fall so I can drink hot cider, eat pumpkin soup, go on long hikes, knit like crazy.

I want it to be next fall so I actually have the time to do those things.

I want it to be next spring so that I can put another degree on my resume, walk across the stage and be (for the time being!) finally finished with academia.

I want it to be sometime in the next nine-ten months when we will know where we are living, what we are doing, where we are working.

I want it to be a few years from now when we move out of cramped apartments and into a house with walls we can paint and gardens we can plant.

I want to be sometime in the God-only-knows future when we have little ones running/walking/crawling/crying around.

If you were to hear me talk, you would think my life is terrible now the way I wish for the future. As if I was Anne Frank trapped in the attic, endlessly dreaming about the day I would see sunshine again.

But I’m not. I have a good life. A job, an education-in-the-works, a husband, a place to live. I forget that these are the times that I waited for years ago. When I couldn’t wait to move out of my over-crowded over-emotional JVC houses. When I couldn’t wait to be married. And before then I couldn’t wait to move across the country for a new adventure and I couldn’t wait to be single.  All my days I spend waiting, wishing, pining.

Ambition is not a bad thing. Hope is not a dirty word. Daydreaming is a perfectly respectable pastime. But my preoccupation with the future makes me forget about the present. I know these are the days we will tell our children about. How we could only afford a small apartment and popped popcorn and watched movies instead of going out. How chicken was a treat and steak was for Valentine’s day only. How we spent a day and a night huddled under our blankets after opening our windows to the 50 degree whether outside because our carbon monoxide detector wouldn’t stop going off. How we cooked big fancy breakfasts for dinner because we slept in too late on Sunday mornings to do it then. How we bought donuts every Saturday morning at the market. How on the rare days we find ourselves both home for lunch we turn on CNN and make fun of Wolf Blitzer.

I know these are good days. The hard parts will one day be funny (most of them anyway). In a way, it’s odd that I spend so much time waiting for things I know will most likely be coming my way. I don’t dream of the day that  I am cured from IC, because  I don’t know if that will ever happen. But the things that will, you would think that I could be content with simply knowing they will happen. Instead, I sit like a puppy at the door waiting for her owner’s to come home, never exploring what is around me now.

I want to enjoy this year. This year with its 50 hour work weeks and still below the poverty line pay. With its term papers and theses and bars and deadlines. It may not be the year I look back on most fondly in my life. But I need to stop waiting by the calendar with a sharpie in hand, ready to cross it off. I need to just be.

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The Right to Life

You might know this, but I’m a Catholic.

Which means I believe in the right to life.

“What? Pro-life? You crazy anti-woman person you.”

Excuse me, I don’t think you heard me right. I said I believe in the right to life. They terms generally imply the same things but as we all know the term “pro-life” has been co-opted for use in the ever-gong abortion debate. The right to life goes beyond abortion and means supporting life in all its forms. Fighting against the death penalty, not supporting wars that aren’t considered “just,” believing in living wages, promoting health care for those who can’t afford it, supporting those who are struggling the most to live, be it through disease, poverty, mental health battles or oppression.

It’s not just about abortion.

And before the other half of you who didn’t leave once I made my “right to life” confession head out as well, I’ll let you know that I am not just one of those “crazy liberals who cares about everything except innocent little babies.” I am against abortion, though I haven’t seen anyone suggest a legal means addressing it that I can support with full conscious. Defunding clinics that provide counseling to rape victims and health care to those who can’t afford it? No, thank you. Outlawing the birth control pill? I’d prefer to not live with the debilitating effects of endometriosis, but maybe that’s just me. No, what I support is cultural shifts, moving away from judging single parents, supporting pre and post natal health care for low-income women, promoting adoption, honoring women who choose to sacrifice 9 months of their life so that another family can welcome a child, encouraging sex education, fighting for the equality of women, working on the self-esteem of young girls so they don’t feel the need to find validation through sex. That kind of thing.

I believe in the right to life in all forms. And while it saddened me to hear people cheer for the execution of 234 people in Texas, it saddens me more to here about the lives that are about to be lost. Government sanctioned murder; how can we say this country believes in life when we support that?

Duane Buck is scheduled to die today in Texas at 6pm central time. While no one disputes his guilt, a psychologist at his sentencing trial testified that he was likely to remain a danger to society because he was black. A man scheduled to die because of his race? I thought Harper Lee wrote that story 50 years ago.

If you want to speak up, you can sign the ACLU’s petition here.

On September 21st, Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia despite their being no physical evidence in the case against him. Seven of the nine who testified against him have since recanted their stories.

The family of James Craig Anderson, who was murdered in a hate crime in Mississippi, is asking the judge not to seek the death penalty for any of those convicted in their family member’s murder.

What saddens me about the death penalty isn’t the amount of life loss. I realize people are dying in bigger proportions every day from other tragedies. What bothers me is that this is the government that we have elected, that is supposed to be a reflection of who we are and what we stand for, has decided that it is okay to take life into their own hands. Not for the protection of society, but for punishment, for retribution, for vengeance.

That’s not who I am. That’s not what I stand for.

If we want to be a country of life, let us support life in all forms. In the tiny ones, in the old ones, in the disadvantaged ones, even in the ones we struggle to forgive. Let us fight for the right to life.

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In defense of the millennials

Our parents* worked hard to give us a better life. Now stop holding it against us.

If you have read an op-ed piece in the last 10 years, you’ve probably come up with some variant on this phrase, “ millennials… who have been spoiled …sports coaches who bestowed trophies on any player who showed up.” (source).

If you read these op-eds, you will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that this generation, my generation, the so-called millennial generation, has been hopelessly spoiled, completely ruined, entitled, weakened by these $3 plastic trophies given to us by loving soccer coaches at the end of a season. For the record, I only received one of these participation trophies, and you know what? I proudly displayed it for years in my bedroom, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise pathetic athletic career. Don’t worry, two years of trying out in for the varsity soccer team, where participation trophies are not given out, demolished any sort of athletic self esteem I had.

And while I liked that little trophy when I was 6 and pretended I would one day be Mia Hamm when I was 10, by the time I turned 21 I had realized that the $3 participation trophy did not mean that I was entitled to a 100k starting salary, a brand new house, or an iPad.

A couple years ago, I attended an event at Gonzaga to listen to a poet-activist speak. After she read her poems, she opened the floor for questions, an opportunity one woman took advantage of.

“Would you say that today, this generation here, is completely self-entitled and interested only in themselves and not others?”

To which the poet replied, “well, no. No, I wouldn’t.”

She pressed on, “But this generation doesn’t get involved in social issues. They don’t hold protests, they don’t have rallies, they don’t march in the streets. They’re lazy. They don’t care.”

I had to laugh. I was sitting with my Jesuit Volunteer housemates, eight people who had given up a year of their life to service this community. I was sitting in a room full of Gonzaga University students, a school which requires participation in service for all students, a minimum many improve upon. I knew hundreds of other people also serving for a year or more around the country in the world.

No, we weren’t into marches and rallies. We decided to do something a little more useful.

The act of bashing the generation that comes after your own is nothing new. The one calling us lazy entitled kids was criticized for their long hair and peace signs. So while the act is not exactly original, and I’m sure I will relish the day when I criticize my children and employees for being too lazy to drive to work and teleporting instead, I would like to address a few concerns.

We know we have it easy. For the most part, we grew up with shoes on our feet, a vaccine for polio and smallpox, in a post draft world that had already put a man on the moon. We aren’t complaining.

But please don’t forget, we saw our high schools shot up during Columbine. We watched the towers fall as we turned fifteen. Our classmates entered wars we wouldn’t win as we graduated from high school. Five months after finished college, our country entered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment was the highest it had been in decades.

We’re criticized for wanting well-paying jobs. Some of us need them, as college costs have tripled in the past thirty years as have housing costs. Real income has increased by a much, much smaller amount. We’re criticized for wanting jobs that mean something, after years of being told we need to change the world. We’re criticized if we take a low paying job in a high rent city and we’re criticized if we move back in with our parents. We’re criticized when we are ambitious, and told that we shouldn’t be so entitled.

We’ve had a hand up, we’ll admit it. But we’re here now and we’re willing to work hard.

Let’s not forget one important fact. It was the boomers who gave us those trophies. They had studied childhood psychology, remembered their youth, and decided it was a good idea.

We’re not kids anymore. We aren’t expecting trophies for showing up to work.  It will be enough for you just to stop calling us lazy and entitled.

*this is in no way directed to my parents, or my husband’s parents, or any of the wonderful people who helped raised us. We appreciate all the opportunities you have given us and think that they will help to make us good, successful people. God willing and the creeks don’t rise.

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Were you there?

I grew up in a small church, with a choir headed by a man who would one day marry me and my husband. His voice rang out so deep, so strong that every Good Friday the words of that old spiritual would rattle my soul.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

I was a brand new fifteen when it happened. I felt so old then, so perfectly able to understand but now looking back I think, I was fifteen? I was only fifteen years old when we went through that? 

I didn’t know until math class was over, until we walked into second period history class and everyone standing around the TV. Two tall towers were smoking and my history teacher said, “We’re just going to watch this for a few minutes and then get class started.”

Of course we never did.

It was picture day that day. Nine months later I brought my yearbook home and as my dad flipped through it I mentioned that those pictures were taken then. He asked,

“Why was everyone smiling?”

I suppose those were the only smiles that day.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

I didn’t understand what was happening. The rest of the world had realized when they saw the second plane crash but I still didn’t understand. Was there a problem with air traffic control in New York? Why hadn’t the planes simply swerved out of the way?

We watched and we watched. The correspondent at the Pentagon told the anchor that, don’t be alarmed, but he just felt a rumble and there were construction workers running out of the building; he was going to go investigate. The anchor begged him not to.

That was the moment I understood. I understood that we didn’t know what was happening, that we were all terrified. That this was the moment successful news reporters, years later when they sat down to write their autobiographies, would say defined their career. This was the moment I knew that the America I had grown up in was a lie. We weren’t safe, we weren’t loved, we weren’t invincible, we weren’t the chosen. We were vulnerable and we didn’t know what was going to happen.

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

That night we watched the news as a family, huddled around the TV for hours. I finally went to my room to turn on the radio, to forget for a moment, but all the radio stations were playing news as well. I fell asleep crying.

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

I never understood the explanations we were given. They hate our freedom. They hate our color TV and our women who are hold positions of power and our men who love other men. They hate our ideals and wealth and everything we stand for. They hate us and our God.

Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter why they hate because there is never a justifiable reason to hate. And we can rationalize it and explain it away, we can shift the blame and use it to comfort ourselves, but at the end of the day, hatred will always be irrational.

Reciprocated hate it is none the better.

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

In the years since that day, those three numbers have become a political trump card. It has been used, abused, thrown around to prove a point. We have used the terror we all felt that day against ourselves. I hear September 11th and I think politics, I roll my eyes, I look away.

Because I forget. I forget watching the towers collapse before my eyes, the dust cloud swarming and seeing something I have never seen in this country – people running for their lives. I forget the news vans covered with missing flyers and stories of shopkeepers who passed out tennis shoes to women who had worn high heels to work that day and had to walk miles home. I forget what it was like to watch the news every day for hours, for weeks, trying to comprehend, trying to understand, not realizing I never full would.

Oh, oh, oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

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Just kidding. Obviously that bill hasn’t kicked in yet. But nevertheless, the government funds the National Institutes of Health, who gave my professor a grant, who decided to kick a portion of it over to…



The other day my advisor asked if I would be interested in being his research assistant. Maybe I should’ve waited till I signed something to announce it, but I’m assuming he won’t renege. It’s about 30 hours of week, which I am more than a little nervous about. I’m in the middle of data collection for my own research and taking a full load (which includes my thesis, so really I’m only taking two classes).

This past year I’ve taken life a little easier than I normally do. In college I was probably working on school 30-40 hours a week, plus volunteering with Young Life, a Christian mentoring program for high school students for another 20 hours, not to mention babysitting and volunteering with our church Haiti twinning project. Compared to last year when I took 9-12 credits a semester (and I’m going to be honest with you, grad school is way easier than undergrad) and that was about it.

Maybe after two years of busting my butt for little pay in JVC made me lazy. But I think more than that I was just trying to keep up with my health. It was like living in one long sick day. And I think it helped. Sure it left me feeling bored and guilty a lot but that’s better than being doubled over in pain.

It’ll be interesting going back to a full throttle schedule. I’ve still got to remember to take it easy, rest, be kind to my poor little bladder. Probably buy one of those donut butt cushions for my office (I think I get a little dorm room converted into an office, we’ll see). It’ll be an interesting experiment to see if I’m really able to work full time. I’ll probably be quitting my job at the shelter, which will be sad since I’ve been working for them for two years now.

Hey and guess what. This job pays. Real money. More than I’ve ever made in my entire life. Not many people consider living on a RA stipend luxury but we’ll sure appreciate it!

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