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hysterectomy, uterine fibroids, fibroids, endometriosis, gynecological issues, perimenopause , uterine biopsy, cancer, poor man's d and c, D&C

It stands to reason that since women’s superpower is that we can conceive, grow, birth and feed babies taking our uterus is like using Kryptonite on us. I never knew how vital my uterus was to my existence until I had children, then I knew it gave me miracles. I never realized that three little uterine fibroids could kill me. I never believed a hysterectomy would be my best case scenario. 

I also learned quickly with my miscarriage that my uterus could also bring me to my knees in prayer, pain and humility. When it’s supposed to work and it fails you, there is nothing like that pain and vulnerability. It’s indescribable. It feels like a failure and betrayal by your body against your soul.

With each of my beautiful children that I was fortunate and blessed enough to conceive, I was also given a uterine fibroid; a tumor. They’ve been monitoring my fibroids, Mo, Larry and Curly, since 2004 to be sure they caused no interferences with my pregnancies.  Each doctor made it sound like there was no cause for concern. So, we let them go…grow with estrogen, not with love. But as they grew, so did my uterus.

READ ALSO: The Surprise Biopsy

But then last year happened and this entire year has been a catastrophic menstruation disaster. Nothing is working right. I’m as about as anemic as I can be. They’ve just upped my iron again and apparently, my uterine fibroids, now more reasonably named, Jason, Freddie and Michael are trying to kill me. If you don’t believe me, explain a uterus full of blood?

You can’t. As I told you in the last post, not even my doctor can. I’m just this anomaly with a uterus like a swamp that needed to be drained. Whatever the hell that even means.

The thing is, as I was referring to women possessing the superpower of conception, gestation and birth, it makes me think that our uterus is pretty vital to our womanhood. It’s our essence. Or maybe that’s just my scared out of my wits that I have cancer, I just read the hysterectomy surgery pamphlet and all these hormones have me jacked talking.

I’ve had tonsils and adenoids taken out. I’ve had tubes put in my ears. I’ve survived a miscarriage and a D & E. I’ve Humpty Dumpty broken and shattered my leg into a thousand tiny pieces, had it put back together and then had the armor put in and surgically removed 3 times. I’ve dislocated my elbow and had it go back into place (both equally as painful). I’ve survived excruciating gallstone attacks and had my gallbladder removed. I’ve spent the better part of the past 3 years in hospitals, laid up and still paying the bills. But this surgery scares me and it’s not just that I might have cancer. Though, believe me, that scares the shit out of me.

READ ALSO:  The Poor Man’s D & C and Waiting for Biopsy Results

This entails a mandatory hospital stay. I may wake up with a couple robotic incisions or a cesarean like incision. I might get to keep my ovaries or she might take everything. I might go into menopause or onto hormones. I might have an oncologist in the surgery or I might not. There’s a 6-8 week healing period. My doctor says that’s very restricted. I have children and I have been here in this restricted position and it’s so hard to be so vulnerable and dependent on others.

There are so many uncertainties and that’s nothing to say of the fact that I just put myself out there and interviewed for a new job in a brick and mortar establishment.  I mean what do I say? What do I do? That’s if I even get the job.

My mind is a million different places this weekend and my sore uterus from my Friday office visit is a constant reminder that this is real. I’m still bleeding…day 29. I’m trying to stay calm for my girls but then all I can think of is what if these fibroids kill me?

I’m afraid of all the things I’ll miss. The milestones. Our 25th anniversary. Bella’s quinceanera. Gabi’s confirmation. Gabi’s quinceanera. High school proms. First boyfriends. College. First heartbreak. College graduation. Weddings. Babies. Becoming a grandma. Growing old with the Big Guy. So much life still to live; so much love still to give. Not enough time to change the world. Not enough time to love the people I love.

hysterectomy, uterine fibroids, fibroids, endometriosis, gynecological issues, perimenopause , uterine biopsy, cancer, poor man's d and c, D&C

So, I’m getting a hysterectomy and I’m waiting on biopsy results. I’ll never have another baby. I’ll never have another period. Bella and I, our periods sync up. Gabi and I will never have that. I know it’s stupid. I know that maybe everything might be all right but right now, I have to face the facts that these fibroids are slowly killing me and now, my uterus has become hostile towards me too. I just want to be ok and be here for the people I love.

So, if you are the praying kind, I’m asking for all the prayers you’ve got. Because, right now, all I can do is wait with nothing but prayers to keep me sane. And to think,  a few days ago, I thought early menopause was the worst thing that could happen to me.

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hysterectomy, uterine fibroids, fibroids, endometriosis, gynecological issues, perimenopause , uterine biopsy, cancer, poor man's d and c, D&C

What trumps a surprise uterine biopsy? A surprise poor man’s D and C. It’s not the same as a D and C in the hospital under anesthesia. My doctor’s words, not mine. It’s fall and the week before my birthday, so I must be waiting for biopsy results. Remember last year’s biopsy wait and see? It was the worst. I went in for my annual exam and ended up with a surprise biopsy. Damn uterine fibroids. Get off my lawn.

This year, I had a 28 day period and nobody knew why. Was I menopausal? Am I perimenopausal? Are my fibroids just the worst? Is it endometriosis? No, I’m not menopausal. Dr. says probably another 6 years before I’d start any kind of natural menopause. Perimenopausal? She said nothing of being there either. Not endometriosis, at least not that she mentioned.

What I did have was a surprise ultrasound to see if my uterine fibroids had grown. Last year, my uterus was the size of a 10-week pregnant woman’s due to the size of the uterine fibroids. This year, since we’ve come to the conclusion that a 28 day period for a severe anemic is not something I can withstand longterm without transfusion…a hysterectomy it will be. Yep, those days of being adamantly against it have given way to just wanting to be able to function in the upright position without feeling like my insides are falling out.

Well, talk about a surprise. The doctor and I were both surprised with the ultrasound results. It was my third time taking off my panties in one office visit and I was getting scared. But when the ultrasound tech nonchalantly asked me, “When was your last uterine biopsy?” I began to get a little squirrely. I asked, “Why? Do you see something?” To which she replied with her best poker face, “Oh, no just wondering. “

READ ALSO: The Menopause Spectrum

I knew that was bullshit. It felt like the day they told me they couldn’t find a heartbeat with my last pregnancy. I wasn’t getting a good vibe. It was hour 3 at the gynecologist’s office and I was beginning to really freak out. She sent me back up to my doctor’s office.

My doctor came into the room like a frantic ball of nervous energy and very quickly told me, “Debi, I need you to get undressed and on the table. Your entire, now, 12-week pregnant sized uterus, is full of blood and we need to empty it and do another biopsy.” As you might remember, last year’s biopsy was very painful and traumatic. A biopsy is not anything you want to be sprung on you.

Then all the blood began to rush from my head ( apparently to my uterus) and the room was spinning. All I heard was biopsy, cancer and uterus full of blood. Remember last year when I complained about my 5 days of heavy bleeding each month and it got me a biopsy and an entire year of horrible, no good unpredictable, heavy periods? Well, now if my options are cancer or menopause…. I’m praying for menopause.

If you’ve made it this far, the next part is going to be TMI so if periods, uterine fibroids and cancer are not your thing, leave now.

My doctor was so frantic, that it felt frenzied. I felt like she was acting under a code blue and I was an unwilling participant in the shit show that was about to happen to me in stirrups.

She put my legs in the stirrups. Asked me to please scoot down and then bright lights and speculums. The deepest one you can find because I have a deep cervix. There was no pain medication of any kind administered.  After trying several speculums, she finally found the one that fit.  I can hear her opening it up. It made me feel like I was about to get a tire changed. She is apologizing the entire time. My fibroids were recoiling while drowning in a uterus full of blood. My imagination is running rampant.

But worse, my gynecologist is talking to herself out loud and I am practically in tears. “I wasn’t worried about cancer but there is just so much blood!” “I’ve never seen so much blood in a uterus!!” “We’re going to do another biopsy.” “You might faint!” “Do you feel faint?” “Hold on to something, this is going to hurt….” “Oh but it’s dark blood, so it’s old blood so I’m not as worried. “ “Sorry, just talking out loud.”

hysterectomy, uterine fibroids, fibroids, endometriosis, gynecological issues, perimenopause , uterine biopsy, cancer, poor man's d and c, D&C

WTF??????

Then she proceeded to insert a giant syringe about 12 inches long and 2 inches around in diameter in through the speculum opening and began to vigorously and aggressively suck the blood and clots out of my womb. If my uterus were a hotel, I imagine that scene out of the Shining when the walls are bleeding and you can hardly see anything.  It was very painful. A surprise D and C is not ever a surprise that you’d want. She referred to it as a “Poor man’s D & C.” I dug my fingers so deep into my arm to stop from screaming that I am covered in bruises.

She emptied 5 full syringes of blood and clots into those cups they make you wee into to check to see if you’re pregnant. I was getting more and more faint with each syringe. Meanwhile, she is calling my attention to it, “Debi, look! Can you believe this? This is incredible.”

I felt hollow. I felt like someone had roto rootered my female reproductive organs. To be honest, I felt violated.  I understand she was doing her best impression of a caped crusader to eliminate the blood from my uterus and shrink it down to as close as possible to normal sized but I could see the vigorous movement of the syringe through the top of my pelvis and worse, I could feel it. It felt like labor pains or those pains you get right after you give birth and your uterus is shrinking down. Either way, it was PTSD traumatic.

READ ALSO: When Cancer’s on the Table

And now, aside from scheduling a hysterectomy that I don’t want to have but have to have and advocating to keep my ovaries so that I don’t go into early menopause and worrying that my uterus will be too big and robotic surgery will give way to a full stomach incision removal, I have to wait to see if I have cancer. Happy birthday week to me.

They’ve put me on meds to stop the bleeding but I’m still bleeding. Right now, it’s a wait and see, try not to throw up from nerves sort of week. I can’t think of anything else and all I want to do is distract myself. Did I mention that the Big Guy is out of town for work? Yep. He volunteered to stay home and cancel but I’ll need him when I have the surgery. I’m just praying it’s not cancer because I don’t want to be alone if that’s what they tell me.

Right before I left with my insides feeling like swiss cheese and my world flipped upside down, I was taking solace in the fact that she said, “It’s all dark blood, I’m not as worried. It’s probably just the fibroids and nothing more.” Then she stopped me as I was leaving, all the color left from my face and said, “If the results come back as cancer, I’ll have another surgeon in there to check your lymph nodes.” And all I could hear was Charlie Brown wah, wah, wah, wah and my mind has been in a very dark place ever since.  I hate the waiting.

Being a woman is hard enough with the whole world trying to stick their noses in our uteruses without having it turn on us and having to worry that the very thing that brings life into the world may in fact, take ours.

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endometriosis, fibroids, colposcopy, menorrhagia, hysterectomy, uterine fibroids

My birthday is next week. I’m turning 30 for the umpteenth time and hoping my fibroids don’t want to be part of the celebration. This month’s period has lasted….captains log day 28…TMI alert* do not pass go* if you are squeamish….I am on day forth box of super tampons. P.S. I’m anemic and I have 3 fibroids. I got one each time I was pregnant. I only have 2 kids so that’s another kick in the vagina.

My point is, and there definitely is one, I went in for my yearly gynecological visit last October, as some of you may remember, I was complaining about a “heavy 5-day period”. I was so stupid. My doctor did my pap, wham, bam, thank you ma’am and noticed, “Hey, Debi, you are spotting and I know you’re a freak so I’ll just do a biopsy. No Bigs.”

Yeah, my doctor and I are all extra like that. We’ve been through a lot together. I’ve howl cried in her office and went straight up looney toons the day of my D & E and refused surgery until they brought an ultrasound machine down to my prep room one last time…just to be sure. I’m sure that I looked as squirrely as I felt. She gets me.

READ ALSO: Why I Won’t Get an Elective Hysterectomy to Cure my Uterine Fibroids

I’m a super advocate for my own health and she knows I’m a little too smart for my own good. Forget WebMD, I consult actual doctors in my circles and ask them all the questions before I bring it to my gynecologist. I research. I weigh odds. I am a freak. She isn’t wrong.

Anyways, that biopsy caused a domino effect. I started a period, right after I had finished a period. Then, I went three months without a period. 3 months is forever in no period days.  I felt like a puffer fish. Then, she told me to start birth control pills to start my period. It worked. I started my period and it lasted forever. It finally stopped and then it kept starting again. Breakthrough all day, every day.

I stopped the birth control pills. I had a couple months of regular 4-7 day periods. Now, let me tell you my period always still comes every 28 days. Whether my period lasts 3 days or 15 days, on day 28 I will start my period again. Linings will be shed. My period somehow always sinks up with my vacations.

READ ALSO: The Gynecological Misadventures of a Millenial-ish Mom

If I am traveling, you can bet money that I will be on my period. It’s been like that since I got pregnant on an anniversary trip to New Orleans in which I got pregnant. I think either God’s got a wicked sense of humor or my body doesn’t like children.  Either way, if it even gets a whiff of a possible travel date…cramps start.

Anyways, we traveled a LOT this past summer and my period proves it. My period refuses to miss out on a good vacation. July’s period lasted for 2 weeks of heavy fibroid bleeding. It crossed the threshold from July into the first full week of August (I was traveling to the beach so of course, I needed to be bleeding in order to attract all the sharks.) Then we got home from the trip, 2 weeks later (28 days from the start of my last period. Wait isn’t that how the zombie apocalypse is supposed to start? Am I patient zero?) I started again and it hasn’t stopped yet. Wait. I have an appointment tomorrow with my gynecologist, I’m sure I’ll stop today. But it’s ok because Saturday is day 28, so I should do something special tomorrow like celebrate with some marital relations.

It’s become so bad that I had to raid my teen’s feminine hygiene products. Let’s just call it even for my disappearing box of tampons when they were toddlers. Seriously, sometimes it keeps me up at nights wondering where the heck all that cotton went. I never did find them. Is it shoved up into my teenaged girls’ noses still? Is this why we have all the sinus issues?

Maybe I should start a new blog called have uterus will travel. Or maybe broken uterus, who dis? Or Menstruation Never Interrupted? All I know is I can’t wait to see my doctor and find the root of this problem. Fingers crossed its hormones and not cancer or some sort of infection that’s gone untreated. Of course, my mind is going to the worse possible case scenario because that’s who I am. I expect the worst and hope for the best.

There’s been talk of a hysterectomy to alleviate the anemia inducing hemorrhaging that we call my period. I was adamantly against that course of action this time last year but after the last 28 days of a near-death slow bleed out, I’m seriously reconsidering it but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared because I am. Not only is my vanity taking a hit that I will be missing parts, I’m literally nervous about being cut open again but I don’t think I can continue on like this. The anemia is taking its toll on my health. My vision is blurry, I’m perpetually exhausted and there is anemia induced anxiety. It’s a thing. Who knew iron was so important?

READ ALSO: When God Shivs You in the Lady Bits

Plus, the pica is embarrassing. I am a grown woman who is currently chewing ice like it’s my job because when you are this iron deficit, it is. You crave it like air. Yes, I do take iron but apparently, I need to up the dose. In case you were wondering if I’m just over here chewing on ice, bleeding out and ignoring the situation. I’m not but thanks for the worry. Still, I just reached my hand into my cup and grabbed a piece of ice like an animal in front of a group of adults in public and so now, I’d say it’s a problem.

So here I am, somewhere on the menopause spectrum with no official diagnosis but here’s hoping tomorrow they give me a diagnosis and something to stop this never-ending period. If you are the praying sort, I’ll take them. If you only believe in positive juju, I’ll take that too. Hell, at this point I’m so desperate, you can do a stop menstruating dance for me and I’d be grateful.

endometriosis, fibroids, colposcopy, menorrhagia, hysterectomy, uterine fibroidsLadies, have you ever had something like this happen? What did you do? Have you had a hysterectomy? Do I believe all the rumors? Am I going to gain 30 pounds, grow a mustache and get a grammy paunch? Because I’m going to tell you, I’m not ready for all that. Why else do you think that I ’m turning 30 for the umpteenth time?

Do you struggle with fibroids or endometriosis?

 

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how to get healthy from your desk by doing almost nothing at all, Flexispot, health made simple, how to get healthy

Do you work at a desk like most adults? Ever have trouble reconciling how to get healthy from your desk and still maintaining your career? It’s so easy, as we get older to blame our out of shape bodies on kids, business and sitting at a desk all day. We’re tired. I get it. I’ve been doing the same thing for years and guess where it’s gotten me? It’s gotten me a muffin top around my waist ( way less cute than it sounds) and looking like a linebacker for the Bears from behind.

We all love to imagine ourselves as outdoorsmen. We say we hike and do yoga, maybe even barre or spin. What that means to me is I walked to take the garbage out and pick up the mail (hike). I almost fell and killed myself but I caught myself (yoga). I got ambitious and tried to do barre with my two girls and got stuck and my back went out (Barre). I rode my cruiser around the neighborhood at a leisurely pace wherein my neighbor’s 100-year-old dachshund outpaced me (spin). Things are not what they always appear. And no matter what lies I want to tell myself about my health, the hips in the jeans don’t lie.

READ ALSO: Can Yoga Pants Really be the Downfall of Man?

Hey, I’m with you. We’re part of a society who wears yoga pants as everyday clothes. Little honestly for you, my yoga clothes have been to one yoga class. I am trying to change that. I am not happy with the status quo. I don’t want to die in my 60’s because I was too lazy to do anything about it today.

I used to work out, hardcore. I loved it. I am an endorphin junkie and I love being proactive in my life. If you know me, you know I am a planner with end results in mind at all times. My goal is to live to 103 years old. No, I’m not joking. My grandpa was 99 when he died. 103 is not out of my realm of possibility for these genetics.

But I’ve got to get off my derriere and do it. You see, my brain has done the math and while it’s totally possible to live to be 103, it becomes exponentially harder when your job is sitting on your bottom all day long. Add to that insomnia and a trash fire diet and well, in my current state there is no way I am hitting my goal and people, I am no quitter.

Here are my list of  how to get healthy from your desk

Worry Less

I am serious, worrying is a useless emotion unless your goal is to stress yourself out, have your body mutiny and release cortisol and make you gain weight. It’s also not good for you mentally. It’s just one more thing to overwhelm you. Worrying never made anything go away or get easier. It only ever makes things worse so stop doing it.

Eat cleaner

Be aware of portion sizes. Try to eat more naturally, less low fat, less processed and refined sugars and more organic. More fruits, veggies and lean proteins and whole grains. Less red meat, rich sauces and salt.

Be Aware

I know some people say to throw your scale away. I personally need accountability. Pick one day every other week and weigh yourself. I am currently using the WW scale; it tracks weight, BMI and body fat.

I also like to monitor my food intake so I use a food scale to keep my portion sizes honest and an app on my phone to keep track of the foods I am eating.

Last but not least, I use BEEM UNITED: BeActiv S100.  They are an in-ear precision heart rate monitor. They not only monitor your heart as you workout, they  allow you to have clear hand free calling for up to 8 hours of use. It has a built-in personal health management app and are waterproof.

Through the BEEM Sport app, listeners can choose their preferred workout, including running, jogging, indoor or outdoor cycling and more, and receive real-time heart rate data as they workout.

Sleep

I’m an insomniac and it’s not fun. It’s also unbelievably unhealthy. I feel a zillion times better when I go to sleep at a reasonable hour and get enough sleep. When I only get 4 or 5 hours of sleep, I feel ruined for the rest of the day. But when I get at least 7 hours of sleep, I feel invigorated and equipped to face life. I’m more tolerant and generally, more pleasant and clear minded.

Move More

Going for a bike ride or walking 30 minutes a day can do wonders for your health but if you can’t manage that, I have the next best option for you the Flexispot bike. It’s so simple but it allows me to work out while I work. In fact, I burned 300 calories writing this post.

how to get healthy from your desk by doing almost nothing at all, Flexispot, health made simple, how to get healthy

The Flexispot bike is height adjustable, stationary bike with a desktop built on it so you can stay sedentary even when you are doing sedentary activities, like checking your emails, working remotely or even watching television. It’s whisper quiet and has 8 adjustable levels. It’s great for the entire family. My girls love it as much as I do and it even won the 2018 CES Innovation Awards.

Disclosure: I was provided a FlexiSpot bike for review purposes but all opinions are my own and the 300 calories I burned writing this post, all mine.

Drink Your Water

I am a water addict. It’s probably the thing I drink the most. When I was younger, I loved Coke, juice and cocktails. As I’ve gotten older, my favorite drinks are water, iced tea, an occasional iced coffee and the rare, blood orange San Pelligrino or martini. Water is good for your skin and keeping you free of toxins.

Take Your Vitamins

I always made sure to give my girls their vitamins. I even started giving them Vitamin-C to boost their immune systems because, let’s face it, schools are cesspools. But what about me? I need to be around to take care of them so that means, stopping, breathing and caring for myself.

READ ALSO: 5 Kitchen Appliances You Need to Get Healthy

What do you do to stay healthy?

What’re your best tips for How to Get Healthy from Your Desk?

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Aretha Franklin, Do Right Woman, Pancreatic Cancer, Grandma, Family relationships, Latina, Aretha Franklin Dead

The Queen of Soul has left this world. Aretha Franklin, the original Do Right Woman, has died from pancreatic cancer earlier this morning at 9:50 a.m.

Aretha Franklin, whose voice was sweeter than honey, was one of the most admired singers of all time. She died this morning at the age of 76 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. She died loved and surrounded by family and friends in Detroit. The Queen of Soul, a woman’s voice who has been around for my entire life, is no longer on this earth and it’s hitting me in a way that I never expected.

Yes, I loved Aretha Franklin ‘s voice and I respected the fire in the belly of that fierce Feminist woman who commanded everyone’s attention and respect. She was a woman who fought for the betterment of other women. She believed in empowering her sisters. She was a big, beautiful force of nature in this world. She was goodness and light and it saddens me that she is gone.

But, I’m sitting here sobbing and I couldn’t figure out why a stranger’s death would have such a profound effect on me. Then I realized, my grandmother died from pancreatic cancer a few years ago on July 8, 2011. She was just a couple years older than Lady Aretha. I’m not crying for the reasons you might think.

READ ALSO: The END of the World as We Know It

I’ve never written about this before because my relationship with my paternal grandmother has always been very private and personal for me. It was strained when it existed. It was the sum product of the relationship she had with my father and the way she treated most of the people that she was supposed to love. I had the misfortune of being old enough to witness and understand too much.

I found out that my grandmother had pancreatic and stomach cancer by an out of the blue phone call one night from my aunt as I was putting my babies to bed. Begging and then demanding that I get on the phone and tell my grandmother that I loved her, that I let her know things were fine between us, and I do it all in Spanish. It was a call for forgiveness after a lifetime of not caring about the consequences of her actions.

I did as I was told. I told the frail voice on the other end, “Te amo, Abuelita.” But I didn’t feel it and if all she wanted was the words to be said, I had done my part but if she had wanted more, she was left wanting. I cried when I hung up because I never wanted her to be in such physical pain, no matter our differences. I cried because I knew this would crush my dad.

This was the first time I had heard from her since my baby shower in 2005 that she had unexpectedly shown up at. She hadn’t been invited because we had no contact. Previous to that, I saw her at my bridal shower that she crashed in 1999. Before that, I think it was when she lived with us in the mid 80’s. I was not a priority to her. Or maybe she didn’t know how to come back from the painful way she had behaved when I was a child. I think maybe she wanted to have a relationship in her old age but had no idea how to reach out in any meaningful way. I had already long given up hope for one.

I was a new mom with little girls. I had long moved on from caring whether or not she cared about me. I only met her a handful of times before she moved in with us when she left my grandfather behind in Mexico to come to live in the United States with her children. My father adored her no matter what she did. In his eyes, even when he knew she did wrong, he chose to look passed it.

READ ALSO: Sometimes the Most Important Things to be Said Don’t Require Words

She fought with my dad over everything. She never liked my mom and was unkind to her. She got mad at my dad if he couldn’t give her all of his attention immediately. She gave no consideration that he was a husband and father of 6 children. To her, he was her son first and foremost and anything he did, she took as a purposeful and personal affront to her. There was no way to win. He lost because he chose his family over her every beck and call.

One day when my 4-year-old brother ran to his grandmother screaming, “Grandma, Grandma” she stopped him cold and pushed him away saying, “I am not your grandma.” My little brother, the sweetest kid I’ve ever known, walked away deflated and crying. I witnessed the deflation and, at that moment, I saw the petty, coldness reveal itself. I was 11-years-old.

I realize you can’t judge someone on one terrible moment in time but that was just one of many moments like this. I don’t want to speak ill of my dead grandmother out of respect for my father. He loved and still loves her very much. He has seen all of her faults and she has done unspeakable hurts to him as a child but he has forgiven her and so have I. I have no room in my heart for hatred. I am thankful that she brought my father into this world and, for that, I will always be grateful and love her.

But when she was dying, she wanted to make an amends with everyone she had wronged. She wanted forgiveness at the very moment I was learning what it was like to be a mother. You see, by the time she called me, I had figured out that my children were the most important thing in the world to me and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Nothing. I definitely would not have taken my 9 children and pushed them to be at odds with one another to prove their love for me.

I can’t explain the whole story of her lifetime, it’s so long. But from the beginning, she had a hard life. She was orphaned, raped by someone she knew, thrown out and living on the streets and a mother by the age of 13. The world made her hard from the very beginning but even when she met my grandfather and they got married and he took on the responsibility of her child and they went on to have 8 more children together, she had been hungry for too long. She had become feral and she never softened.  She stayed hungry and autonomous.

She pushed everyone who could ever love her away. Maybe she believed herself unlovable. If that is the case, I feel sorry for her. Her children loved her blindly and unconditionally and she never could reciprocate entirely. She was too guarded.

The thing is the weeks leading up to her death, everyone came from near and far to visit her, let her make amends, give their forgiveness and be there to support her in her final days. They congregated around her hospital bed in my aunt’s living room praying the rosary and crying, supporting one another; being there for one another like only family can. I’m sure the love was palpable but I wouldn’t go. I know that sounds cold and harsh.

I wasn’t trying to withhold anything but I couldn’t go there and pretend that I belonged. We never had a relationship. I told my father that if he needed me there for support, I would go for him. But, my going had nothing to do with her. I didn’t need to say goodbye because we had never really said hello. We never really got to know each other and that’s how she had wanted it my entire childhood. She had lived withholding love for so long that she had to think about it to remember to hug us so mostly she didn’t. My dad told me that he understood and it was fine if I didn’t go. So I didn’t.

She died. I never even cried. I remember the date she died because remember that little 4-year-old brother of mine who she told she was not his grandma? She died on his 32nd birthday. Neither of us cried. Neither of us went to say goodbye.

Over the years since, I have seen a few pictures of her smiling. She looked happy in her way. I only saw her smile once in my life, that was at my baby shower. I think she was excited, in her way, that her first granddaughter was going to have a daughter. I’ll always love her for loving the idea of my daughter and loving my father, even if she didn’t love me. Or maybe she did, in her way.

Aretha Franklin, Do Right Woman, Pancreatic Cancer, Grandma, Family relationships, Latina, Aretha Franklin Dead

Today, when I read about Aretha Franklin dying of pancreatic cancer, the painful, terrible disease that killed my last living grandparent, I cried for my grandma. It took me 7 years but today, it hurt remembering that she was gone. It hurt remembering that she is no longer here on this earth for her children. It pains me knowing that my father hurts every day missing his mother. It hurt knowing that there are no more chances for redemption for her.

Today the true forgiveness washed over me and I let the pain go. I wrote about it. “Te Amo, Abuelita.” Today, these words have weight. She never did get to meet my girls. But then again, she never asked to and maybe that was her gift to me. No words to hurt, no deeds to be undone just the fond, edited memories recounted by my father with love to his granddaughters.

As I sit here listening to Do Right Woman on a loop, I hope you rest in Peace Aretha Franklin and you too, abuela.

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Kitchen appliances you need, 5 Kitchen Appliances You Need to Get Healthy, tips to live longer, tips to get healthy

I’ve made a list of  5 kitchen appliances you need to get healthy. I am, once again, trying to get my groove back. Well, not so much my groove, per se, but I am trying to see my feet again. Not that I’m walking around waiting for my spot on My 600-lb to air or anything. No one is coming anytime soon to airlift me out of my house with the jaws of life (knock on wood) but I could definitely be in better shape.

Yes, I’ve been here before. My never-ending quest for perfection. But this time, it really is different. This has nothing to do with perfection and everything to do with just wanting to look and feel good. It really isn’t so much vanity as just wanting to buy off the rack and have things fit correctly.  And if I could get rid of this Mother’s apron belly and my bat wings, even better. Okay, maybe I am a little vain.

READ ALSO: The Weight of my World is a Number on the Scale

The thing is this time, I really don’t care what other people think. The Big Guy is finally on board with trying to lose some weight himself. Like, it was his idea and he’s committed to it. I’m not embarrassed by my body. I love it. It’s a little broken but mostly, it is really strong. What I do want is to feel comfortable in my own skin, to be healthy and to not have to consider whether or not my body will be a hindrance to me in certain activities. For example, I just decided to skip an activity in Cozumel that would include me wearing a wetsuit in public.

To make it easier to get healthy, I wanted some appliances that could contribute to a healthier way of eating. Appliances that make eating healthy less cumbersome. I also wanted to be able to eat things that were recognizable to me and tasted good, just healthier versions.

This is my list of 5 kitchen appliances you need to get healthy

Hamilton Beach Rice and Hot Cereal Cooker, 5 kitchen appliances you need to get healthy, kitchen appliances you need

Hamilton Beach Rice and Hot Cereal Cooker

I don’t know how it does it but this magical appliance cooks rice (yes, even brown rice and whole grains) and steams vegetables perfectly simultaneously.  I’m telling you, it is magic. I can do pretty well with white rice and Spanish rice on my own but brown rice and whole grain perfection has alluded me.

It’s also pretty fantastic at making overnight oatmeal for a healthy breakfast in the morning for the entire family. It’s about to get really cold here in the Midwest and there is nothing that beats hot cereal for breakfast. Plus, why not eliminate some of the hassles of trying to do all the things, plus wrangle children in the morning? Did I mention cooks rice perfectly?

Disclosure: I was provided a Rice and Hot Cereal Cooker by Hamilton Beach for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

Juicer

I have a Breville but there are many options out there. This just happens to be the one I have and I love it. I like to juice for breakfast. It fills me up and gives me an energy boost. You may be asking, why not just drink coffee? While coffee is delicious, it is acidic and I’m pretty sure that the last time I was in the ER with my gallbladder attack, they told me that I had an ulcer. I’m 100% certain in this statement, as I could not hear over my own sobbing and vomiting of all the bile. Either way, I drink coffee in small quantities.

Too much caffeine makes this insomniac manic. Which reminds me, I don’t recommend a juice fast and the reason I only do breakfast juicing is that when I’ve done a juice fast, I became extremely manic. It takes a lot of fruit and veggies to make a glass of juice. Fruit has a lot of natural sugars. For me, sugar is sugar. My mania knows no difference. But still, for a healthy and delicious morning pick me up, juice.

Ninja Smart Screen Kitchen System with FreshVac Technology

One smart base, three high-performance appliances: the 72 oz. FreshVac Pitcher
(64 oz. max liquid capacity), 20 oz. Single Serve FreshVac Cup, and 40 oz. Precision Processor. It makes getting your daily smoothies in easy and quick. Kids come home from school hangry, smoothies in minutes. This is one of my favorite appliance buys. It does so much.

Airfryer

The Big Guy has gone on the Mediterranean diet so we are trying to reduce frying and incorporate a healthier option. Whatever you can deep fry, you can air fry, it is safer and healthier like having a portable convection-type oven at your fingertips. The Bella Air Fryer is a multi-functional unit with traditional fryer functions can air fry French fries, onion rings and chicken nuggets. PLUS, apparently, you can also bake small cakes, cook small chickens and meat roasts and even bread. Really simple and convenient to use you can cook a 1/2 bag of frozen French fries in 15 minutes using no oil at all.

Food scale

I have the EatSmart Digital Nutrition Scale. It’s a Professional Food and Nutrient Calculator that Calculate calories, carbs, fiber, sodium, fats, vitamin k and six other nutrients from thousands of packaged and 999 whole foods. It’s lightweight and stores easily under my counter.

Weighs in grams (to nearest whole gram) and ounces (to nearest .1 ounce); Max weight 11 pounds. It’s so simple but so important. Once you get those portions under control, you’ll be amazed at how your weight begins to level off.

READ ALSO: Fat Girl Walking

These are my 5 kitchen appliances you need to get healthy. What can you not live without in your kitchen? Do you think that the appliances you have in your kitchen are as important as the food you eat?

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Mourning Orca Mother, Tahlequah, Orca Whales, Loss, J-35, Orca mother mourns loss of newborn calf

Tahlequah, also known as J-35, is a 20-year-old female orca whale whose calf died just 30 minutes after being born. This mourning orca mother has refused to let go of her dead baby calf ever since, carrying the infant either by one fin, or pushing it through the water on her head. Today marks day 17 and this grieving mother is still carrying the body of her baby through the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

The world is watching and mourning the loss with this grief-stricken Orca mother as she has swum hundreds of miles with her baby. Orca whales have a gestation period of 15 to 18 months. To feel your baby alive, growing in your body and then just as suddenly be gone is incredibly hard to process. Herself and others in her pod are in grave danger because they are neglecting themselves in tribute to this loss.

I get it. I think any mother who has ever lost a child gets it. You don’t want to let go because letting go makes it real. Being real means finality. Finality means that your baby is dead and that is a hurt too hard for any mother’s heart to bare. It is inconceivable and when you are experiencing it, you do lose sight of everything and everyone else.

READ ALSO: ALL I Can do is Cry

As much as you want the pain to go away, you want to embrace it and feel every bit of it because “it” is the only thing you have left of your baby. That pain is the placeholder of where your baby is supposed to be and some part of you never wants to let it go even when the pain is so heavy and dark that it burns your lungs to breathe. You don’t care. You don’t care if you breathe because when your baby dies, some part of you (as a mother) dies too. We feel it and it hurts beyond measure.

Tahlequah is part of an endangered pod of southern resident killer whales. There are only 75 left in the PNW. Her calf was born alive near the San Juan Islands in Washington state but died just 30 minutes later. She has since swum hundreds of miles toward British Columbia, carrying her child with her the entire way.

My heart breaks for this mother whale because I know this deep, unrelenting sadness too well. Unfortunately, too many mothers do. It has been 6 years since my baby died. I spent a month in bed sobbing and tortured. I numbed my pain with medication and solitude. I was not fit for company and I was so sad and felt such despair that I had no appetite. I had no desire to exist. All I could do was focus on what I had lost and scramble to try to hold on to it before even the clarity of the memory disappeared.

I was not logical or rational. I was grief-stricken and heartbroken like only a mother who has lost their child can be. It is a loss beyond comprehension. The pain of living in a world where your child does not is the cruelest there is. To wake up every day knowing that your child is not afforded that same luxury brings with it a guilt that one cannot begin to understand without having tasted its bitter reality for themselves.

READ ALSO: Some Things Change You Forever

Tahlequah is just doing what every single mother who has lost their baby, no matter the stage of pregnancy or life that “baby” may have been at would do, she is holding on for as long as she can because she knows that once she lets go, she will never feel that baby again. Once her baby is gone, she is gone forever.

I am glad the world is watching and empathizing with this mourning mother Orca. I am glad that this whale’s desperate actions can give words to the universal feelings of loss all grieving mothers, especially humans, feel when they lose a child. I hope the compassion spills over and the next time a mother comes into our lives who has lost her own baby, we can treat her with a little more tenderness and compassion.

We mothers who have lost our babies, we carry on. We survive. But we are not the same woman we were the day before. We are broken and we have a hurt that is eternal and can never be healed. Just because time passes and from the outside, it looks like we are ok, know that we are not and we will never be again. Our wounds leave more than our arms empty; they leave irreparable scars on our hearts. When our babies die, they take a part of us with them.

As soon as I knew that I was pregnant, I loved that baby. I love the baby I never got to hold as much as I do my two daughters who I hold every single day and I don’t think that love will ever dissipate. But where all this love lives in my soul, there is no tangible direction to guide it. It exists and yet, sometimes it feels like my third child only existed in my mind. This is why we can’t let go. We mothers keep their memories alive so that the world knows they were once here, no matter how briefly.

I think every mother who has lost a child can relate to Tahlequah on a cellular level. We wish that society could recognize how deep this loss is felt and how it changes us down to our very core. Too soon, Tahlequah will have to let go but at least she’s had these days, few as they may be. Most human moms are not privileged to have that time. We are told that our baby is dead and just as quickly, our baby is gone from our eyes, from our arms and from this world. There is no gradual time of acceptance.

Our society dictates that a dead baby is taboo. They’ve decided that it’s better for us to remove the evidence but its too fast. Our hearts can’t shift gears so quickly. I remember, quite literally, howling in pain like a wounded animal when it hit me that I had to let go of my baby. Thinking of that moment in my car, alone with my dead baby inside me, before a preschool pick-up, trying to digest it all and not die breaks my heart right now. Our culture dictated that I pull myself together and move on but I had no idea how to. I couldn’t even speak. How was I supposed to function and go on like nothing happened? How was I supposed to forget.

I know that soon Tahlequah is going to have to let her baby go. Her body will grow too weak and weary to carry on, though she will try. She may even try until her very last breath. Believe me, I get it. There were dark moments when it first happened that I wished I could just die so the pain would stop but, unlike Tahlequah, I had to carry on for my living girls. That’s what mothers do. We push through the most difficult moments of life by loving and serving others. This is not as selfless as it sounds, this is them (our living loved ones) giving us the purpose to live even when it hurts so bad we’d rather die.

Tahlequah is in a grief loop. She can’t let go but she has to. We all have to physically let go of our babies but we keep them in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember, but eventually, you are able to breathe again.

Tahlequah is every mother who has ever lost a child.

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how to save your marriage, marriage, communicating in marriage, marriage counseling

Marriage is not always easy. Most of the time it’s hard. But where there is true and deep love, I think it’s worth fighting for with everything you’ve got. This is how to save your marriage by having the hard conversations, the uncomfortable ones that might leave you yelling, in tears or second-guessing your entire relationship but its better than the cold silence of not caring at all.

There is no guidebook that they hand out as a wedding gift called How to save your marriage. That would be a little dismal to say the least. But maybe there should be. Maybe they should just change the title and give that book to every single person even considering getting married.

What do you do when you’re in love with your spouse and they are crazy about you but you disagree on one thing? Sounds simple, right? You get over it or you compromise. You work through it. But sometimes the “thing” is so huge that getting over it is impossible. Parenthood is that topic.

READ ALSO: How Scrambled Eggs Made my Marriage Sexy

Full disclosure, I had been ready to get pregnant since our first wedding anniversary but the Big Guy was really enjoying our time as a married couple. I come from a big family so wanting to be a mom was a given for me. He comes from a small family and, to tell the truth, I think he was lukewarm to the idea of little people. By about year three, I could feel my biological clock ticking. My brother had kids and I wanted babies too. Still, the Big Guy was slightly above lukewarm.

I was starting to panic. Not about having babies at that moment but whether or not he wanted to have them ever. That was a real problem for me because some hard decisions were going to have to be made. I knew I wanted children. Full stop. I also knew that if he didn’t, that’s not something that you can force someone into. What if I couldn’t live without being a mother and he couldn’t live with being a father? Was I going to have to divorce the man I was completely in love with and who loved me more than anyone else ever had? I was hiding from my own reality because I didn’t want to face it.

One day during year four, I just broke down and had the hard discussion, laid it all out on the table. Never have I been so afraid to tell anyone anything in my entire life because it really was a life-changing conversation. I didn’t make any threats. It wasn’t an ultimatum. But we had to face the obvious and have the conversation, I wanted to be the mother of his children. That wasn’t negotiable and I wasn’t going to change my mind. I knew I would feel like something was missing if I just gave up on that dream. I also told him that there was no way that I would ever ask him to be a father if he didn’t want it 100% because then he’d be miserable and we’d all suffer.

My brain knew that the only option if we couldn’t come to an agreement that we were both comfortable with, was divorce. Divorcing someone who you love and loves you back in a world where it is so hard to find that sounds ridiculous, I know, but what are your options when you can’t agree on something so huge? We had the talk and got it all out in the open. We both cried because it was hard and afterward, we laid in each other’s arms emotionally exhausted 20 somethings wishing it would all just not be an issue. But we both knew the problem wasn’t going anywhere.

READ ALSO: How to Train a Husband

It wasn’t that he adamantly didn’t want children. It was that he had never had an opinion one way or the other and his partner in the previous long-term relationship prior to me was adamant that she did not want children…ever. So he had reconciled himself to the fact that he would never be a father. Then he fell in love and married a Catholic, Mexican from a family of 8.

After a couple weeks, we don’t take the heavy questions lightly, he told me that after thinking about it for a while, he was prepared to plan to plan to have a baby. He wasn’t ready right that moment at 27 to become a father but babies were definitely on the table. We were both relieved and finally, on the same page. Then, a New Orleans long weekend away to celebrate our anniversary changed everything.

I won’t lie, I still wasn’t sure that he was 100% onboard but I could see him warming up to the idea. He started spending more time with our nieces and nephews and I could see a shift from holding a baby like it was a tiny bomb to cuddling the baby and smiling, feeling the joy that all newborns in your arm bring. We had time. But it had to be discussed.

So if you want to know how to save your marriage, this is my advice.

My point is that hard discussions have to be had for there to be honesty and trust in a marriage. You can’t avoid the hard things. They have to be faced head-on, together. These are the moments that make or break a marriage.

You’re probably wondering, why didn’t these 2 discuss their position on babies before getting married? Fair question. The only answer I have for you; we were in college when we got engaged after 4 months of dating. Our heads were not in charge of the situation. It was all heart. We were young and very much in love. I think we were both just taking it for granted that the other person wanted what we wanted. We hadn’t known each other long enough to know how different our experiences growing up were.

I’ve learned from my mistakes though. I’ll make sure that my girls have these conversations before they are married to their best friend and 4 years deep into building a life together. We were lucky it worked out. More than lucky, we are blessed that we were willing to face it together and talk it out and figure out together what we wanted out of our marriage.

What’s the biggest marriage challenge that you’ve faced as a couple?

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spark goodness, random acts of kindness, teaching kids to be kind, how to raise kind children

Disclosure: Sponsored by author T.A. Barron and the Spark Goodness Program.

How do you teach your kids to be good people? Sounds simple, right? We think its innate but really, we lead by example. It’s not something you learn just from being told to do so. The way it makes you feel also is not something you can explain. It’s like childbirth in that way. The only way to experience it is to do it and to feel it wash over you like a warm rain shower in the summertime. It feels special, beautiful and fulfilling.

I’ve always told my girls that you get out of the world what you put into it. This is something my parents taught me. Life is not about collecting all the things. It is about living a life that is meaningful, intentional and purposeful and at the end of the day, it’s about being the kind of person that you’d like to encounter in the world.

READ ALSO: The Starbucks Effect

It’s summertime and the girls have had a definite lull in their schedule compared to the school year. They are required to do service work throughout the year for school. This is something they have always done. Aside from that, they’ve always seen me volunteer my time, money and experience for many different causes that I support. I do this because I believe in it and I love actively raising awareness. It gives me purpose. It makes me feel fulfilled. I want this for my girls too.

The world is what we make of it. We have to be active participants. Waiting for life to happen to you is not very fulfilling. I want my girls to know that sparking goodness does not have to mean giant, sweeping declarations of righteousness because, honestly, the idea of creating these grand gestures can be quite intimidating and daunting. I’m showing my girls that all it takes is a spark of goodness to ignite a raging fire.

Each act of kindness we perform has ripples and they reverberate and touch everyone around. Maybe it’s nothing more than grabbing an item at the grocery store from the top shelf for an elderly woman. It takes a second but she won’t forget that kindness. Though it was a second of your time, it might have meant everything to an elderly woman struggling to get her green beans. This causes her to smile and it makes her day brighter, her disposition sunnier and that is contagious.

READ ALSO: Random Acts of Kindness

My daughters see these acts every day. They’ve seen my husband buy meals for homeless people many times. They’ve seen us help our elderly neighbors, take meals to sick friends, give clothing to the homeless shelter or friends who could use them. They’ve seen me raise 10000 for Leukemia and Lymphoma. They know that every act of kindness matters.

I see, when they think I’m not looking, holding the door for people. Helping the elderly at the stores. Donating their allowance to special causes. Volunteering their free time which they don’t have much of to begin with. I am proud that they have made this a priority in their lives. I hope they never forget that every small act reaches many lives.

This year, T.A. Barron, well known for his philanthropy and creator of the popular Merlin book series that is currently being made into a film by Disney, wants to help influence children to find their inner hero.

To support this dream of creating more light in the world, he came up with the #SparkGoodness campaign that encourages individuals to bring good and light into the world. He even provided a list of ways families can spark goodness in their own communities.

spark goodness, random acts of kindness, teaching kids to be kind, how to raise kind children

Those that share are highlighted via his social media feeds and entered to win a monthly prize as well as a grand prize at the end of the year. T.A. Barron even provided an easy sheet to track all of your families sparks of goodness this summer.

spark goodness, random acts of kindness, teaching kids to be kind, how to raise kind childrenEven though sparking goodness is its own reward, I’d love to encourage you and your families to enter T.A. Barron’s year long #SparkGoodness contest. Those that share are highlighted via his social media feeds and entered to win a monthly prize, as well as a grand prize at the end of the year. The July prize is a set of family yard games valued at over $ 200!

How do you inspire your children to commit sparks of goodness and rand acts of kindness?

 

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disrupt aging, AARP, invisible woman, speak up for yourself

Disclosure: This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

People say that as women grow older, they become invisible. Well, I think women have been fed this line of bull ish since they were little girls. I don’t believe that to be true. I believe the myth of the invisible woman is not only untrue, it is unacceptable. If anything, as I’ve gotten older, my voice has grown stronger and louder. I’ve shed the expectations of others like a heavy coat in August.

I used to worry about what other people thought. When I was a little girl, I was even shy. I measured my worth and success by other people’s standards and it was impossible. It was scary. You always fall short when you’re measuring yourself against someone else’s view of who you are supposed to be.

READ ALSO: How to Empower Your Little Girl to Speak Up for Yourself

When I was a little girl, my dad told me “If you have something worth saying, stand up and tell your truth. Never be afraid to speak up and stand up for what’s important to you!” I think he was hoping that mantra applied to everyone else, except him. But for me, it applied to everyone. And believe me, if I could stand up to my strict Mexican father, I can stand up to anyone. I’m not afraid of confrontation.

I noticed as I went off to college as a young woman, I threw myself into causes. I was a member of PETA, Green Peace and planned on joining the Peace Corps after graduation. I was involved in politics and feminist organizations. I was always about power to the people but back then, I kept my standing up to organized functions and college essays.

I wanted to make the world a better place, I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to sacrifice my place in it to do it. I was young and ambitious but I was naïve and wasn’t quite sure how my voice being heard in the world could reconcile with me finding a place and the life I wanted in that same world. I was like most people.

Then, I became a mother. I gave birth and in that moment, I went from caring what other people thought about how I stood up or raised my voice and singularly concerned myself with making the world a better place for my children. Nothing else was/is more important to me. There is no room for ego in motherhood.

Some may see that as a weakness but I drew strength from those little girls. When I thought I couldn’t stand back up and speak up for what was right, when it got hard and it was easier to just maintain the status quo, all I needed to do was look to these little girls with their big eyes fixed on my every move and the answer was simple. It was right there all the time, out of the mouth of my father…stand up. Tell your truth. Never be afraid to put it on the line for what’s important to you!

READ ALSO:  How to Raise Brave Women and Compassionate Humans

I became emboldened with a fierceness that I had never known before. I was compelled to speak up when others could not. That’s when I developed my Wonder woman stance. I was ready to make the entire world hear me if it meant a better world for my girls to grow up in. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.

My girls are now tweens and teens and as they grow more into young ladies and are less children, I see society slowly putting its foot on their necks and I will not allow it. I’ve found that the older they get, the more they understand and they want to stand with me against the injustices of the world. Their eyes are still fixed on me, watching my every move.

I’ve hit the place in my life where I demand to be heard. I am the furthest thing from invisible. I owe it to my daughters to not give a spit what anyone else thinks of me. I want my daughters to see me speaking up, standing up and fighting for what is right. I refuse to let them see me give up when things get tough. I will never let them see me go invisible to make other people comfortable and I hope I inspire them to use their voices and never become invisible.

I will no longer let society set the expectations of who I am supposed to be. And I will never let the world tell my girls who they can, what they can do or that they should be seen and not heard.

The older I get, the louder I plan to become. The world will see me because I will refuse to become unseen and unheard.

What is the one wisdom that you want to impart to your children?

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