Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Frustration of CFIDS

It is frustrating to have a condition like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. It is an illness that family and friends don’t really understand or accept. It hurts emotionally to feel sick and wretched and for people to think you are making it up. Some try to understand but they never really get it. They expect you to function at the same level they can and you feel like a wuss for not being able to keep up.

Most of the time when people are sick they can go to a doctor for help and relief but not with CFIDS. There may be some doctors who understand but basically the illness does not have legitimacy. There has been little research. And there has been an absence of biological markers until recently when a link has been discovered between the retrovirus, XMRV and CFIDS. Yet it is not certain what can be done. The research shows a high percentage of people with CFIDS are positive for XMRV but not all. So what gives?

I have been toying with the idea of being tested for XMRV but with the time and expense of it all, what would I gain? This is particularly when the treatment available is in the experimental stage.

I have been following one blog with great interest of a physician, who along with her daughter have been tested positive by culture for XMRV.   They have sought help through treatment of antiretroviral medication. They have found a sympathetic doctor to treat them and monitor their progress. So far she claims it has helped. But I don’t know if I want to go there. I am moderately functional and I fear the often damaging side effects of powerful drugs. Perhaps I would take the risk if I were bedridden. But right now I prefer to take and watch and see approach.

Friday, November 19, 2010


One of the things that Kim and I did on our cross country drive home was to divert to Toronto and explore Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Ontario. At the age of 35, L.M. Montgomery married and left Prince Edward Island with her husband, Ewan MacDonald, who was a Presbyterian minister. They served at two pastorates, Leaskdale and Norval, and moved to the city when her husband retired. These places are where she wrote most of her books.

An Artist's rendering of Maud in Leaskdale
This past summer Kim and I took a vacation on PEI with my sister, her husband and their two daughters. Other than relaxing on the beach and enjoying conversation over delicious meals at the Shaw Hotel, we visited most of the LM Montgomery tourist sites. My brother-in-law coined a new word; “Anne-ing” and we did an extensive amount of this. I became reacquainted with all things “Anne” (of Green Gables) and its popular author. Since we planned to drive back to Colorado this fall, it seemed easy and appropriate to stop by Toronto and continue the tour. I had heard that the manse in Leaskdale where she and her husband first lived after they were married is now a tourist site/museum and I was eager to see it.

It was November by the time we rumbled through the greater Toronto area. We spent three nights in Oshawa on the east side of the city. I failed to realize until we were there that the museums and tourist sites were closed for the season. I don’t know what I was thinking. I assumed that because I wanted to see them and because of their proximity to a big city that they would still be open, although perhaps with limited hours. I had perused one website that said that the manse at Leaskdale would be open until Thanksgiving but I forgot that the Canadian Thanksgiving is earlier than ours—October 11 this year. But I swallowed my disappointment and thought that it was still nice to be there and we could drive around and view the countryside and the outside of the buildings where her life took place.

We spent the first of our two days in Uxbridge/Leaskdale, an hour’s drive due north of Oshawa. It was a nice sunny day, brisk, but tolerable for walking about outdoors. Uxbridge is a charming town (and also 'the trail capital of Canada') and we wandered about the outdoors of the Uxbridge-Scott Museum which houses a L.M. Montgomery exhibit but was closed. I bought a copy of Volume V:1935-1942 of The Selected Journals of the author at The Blue Heron Bookstore in town. We ran across both a gluten-free bakery and restaurant, both named Franke’s, and I was in heaven because I could once again enjoy the treats of bread and cake. We drove on to Leaskdale and easily found the Presbyterian Church. We pulled into the parking lot and as we were getting out of our car to take photos, a woman drove up. She looked at us as if expecting us but of course she could not have been. I hardly opened my mouth to say hello when she said, “Would you like me to show you the inside of the church and then take you over to the manse so you can see that too?” I was awestruck by our good fortune as this kind, friendly woman gave us an thorough tour of the church and manse. We learned that she is the president of The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario. Both church and manse have been bought by the Society to make an exhibit of Montgomery’s life in Leaskdale. Their goal is to make the Leaskdale site one of scholarship and a deeper understanding of Montgomery’s influence on Canadian literature and the world and not so much a ‘Wonderland’ like that which is on Prince Edward Island.

In addition to learning more about LMM, we enjoyed the beauty of the rural rolling countryside. The farms scattered all over the area have the prettiest farmhouses and barns. Pastureland and fields of crops are broken up by stands of trees, pockets of forests, creeks, rivers and ponds and I was enchanted by it all.

On the second day we drove to the west of Toronto to Norval where the MacDonalds lived after they left Leaskdale. It was another pretty town, a bit more built up than Leaskdale but easy to recognize from LMM’s time. There has not been the same effort to showcase the church and manse as in Leaskdale. The Presbyterian Church continues to function as a church and it rents out the house that was once a manse. Kim opened the door of the church and called hello and was rewarded when the present minister welcomed us to come inside. He was about 30 and was reserved and shy. But he answered several of our questions and offered some information. He pointed out a photo of Ewan MacDonald on a wall of photos of all the church ministers since 1840. He showed us where Maud would perform her theatrical productions. He led us to the sanctuary which looks very much like it did back in Maud’s day except that the floor is covered by an ugly red carpet. There was an plague of appreciation to Ewan and Maud and the same hymn boards that Maud gifted to the church. Kim hinted at some questions about Ewan and Maud’s spirituality but he didn’t bite. As we left him, he directed us to the LMM garden and we delighted walking through it as well as along the lovely Credit River.

We left Norval to visit the last of the houses where LMM lived. After Ewan MacDonald retired, due to mental illness (a sad story), the family moved to Toronto and Maud bought a house. Although grown, their two sons lived at home while attending university. The house is tudor style on a bluff overlooking the Humber River and not far from the lakefront. Her old neighborhood is charming; an island of pleasant domesticity only a short drive away from the congestion of a vast city, skyscrapers and all.

I started reading her journal, Volume V, when we returned to the hotel that evening. It was almost an eerie coincidence that the first entry described her move from Norval to Toronto and I had seen those places that very day.

I would have liked to do more exploring; the University of Guelph to see its large collection of archival material and personal artifacts as well as Bala, the spot that inspired one of my favorite of her books, The Blue Castle. Maybe next time.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Crashing in Colorado

I recently returned from spending a little over two months on the east coast. Part of that time was with Sarah, Andrew, Henry and Julian. The rest of the time Kim and I resided at our place on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Initially I flew to Boston but I came back with Kim via car. I loved that whole experience. I think I like the nomadic life.

When I was out east I would have times of fatigue that is beyond normal but I could keep my head above water. When I returned to our home in Colorado I sank beneath the surface. Most sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome know this as crashing. Usually the crash, also known as post-exertional malaise, occurs because of more activity than I can handle. But every time I return home to Colorado I experience the same thing. I have a theory about this—in addition to or maybe because of CFS my body has a hard time adjusting to high altitude. It always happens when I fly home. I hoped that because we drove and the trip was more gradual, I would escape the crash, but no.

The crash or post-exertional malaise is painful—an all encompassing fatigue but not necessarily achy, sore or smarting (well, okay, sometimes it is accompanied by a headache and sore throat ). I can’t move and I can’t think. It has been five days and I am feeling better. Otherwise I would not be able to write this post.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Glory of King Solomon

I would love to enter a time travel machine and observe Israel at the time of Solomon’s reign. His father’s military efforts had paid off making the nation secure and peaceable. It had wide borders and the people were happy and well fed.

King Solomon was a fascinating figure. He was king of Israel at the height of its glory. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to listen his great wisdom. He was a writer with three books to his credit in the canon of Scripture. He had an intimate knowledge of the natural world. He was extremely wealthy and perhaps one of the few men in all of history to have every material desire fulfilled.

It is interesting that Solomon was a child of the union between David and Bathsheba—the relationship that represented the great sin of David’s life. David committed both adultery and murder to make Bathsheba his wife. But God granted his plea for forgiveness. And a son of this union becomes king and reigns at the time of the greatest glory of ancient Israel. God gave David a fresh start through Solomon. It is a beautiful example of God’s mercy, grace and propensity to offer second chances.

Yet Solomon drifted away from worshiping Yahweh who gave him everything on a golden platter. It is a marvel that some people, who have all the world has to offer can completely blow it. Solomon was able to avoid disaster but he set in motion the downward spiral of the nation of Israel into ruin. First he followed after the way of the kings at that time and focused on the exclusive goals of wealth, power and an excessively large harem. Then he allowed his foreign wives to lead him astray and worship other gods. How did they manage to have so much influence on him anyway? I thought women were powerless in the ancient world. Yet they managed to corrupt the wisest man alive. The nation of God’s chosen people, for whom He cared so much, starts to unravel following the death of Solomon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

“Nature is Cruel but We Don’t Have to Be”

I loved the movie Temple Grandin. Not only was it a well done film but it was a most interesting story based on a real person’s life. It helped me understand autism better and it reveals how people with ‘disabilities’ can make amazing contributions to society and our way of living.

It stars Claire Danes who does an amazing job of portraying Temple Grandin, a woman with autism who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when there was little understanding of the condition. While a physician recommended that little Temple be institutionalized, her mother fought the system and worked hard to teach Temple how to talk and behave, enabling her to complete her education and go onto college. Temple continued with her education to complete both a masters and a doctorate degree in animal science. Her career in livestock management has transformed the means of transporting cattle to the slaughter house so that they enter it calmly, dying without pain and in dignity. Temple has a love, compassion and respect for the animals that give us life and health. Almost half of the slaughter plants and livestock farms in the US use her designs.

That is encouraging because I believe that meat is a healthy source of nutrition for me. I know that diet is a very individual thing but my health problems with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have made me sensitive to what makes me feel healthy and nourished.

I now wish to explore finding, purchasing and preparing grass-fed meat. I would prefer to eat meat from animals that are raised on pastureland rather than crowded livestock farms. I have learned that it is healthier for human consumption and I assume that it provides a better life for the animals. Maybe someday farmers will rip up some of the vast fields of corn (the source of the poisonous high fructose corn syrup) and wheat (the source of mammoth amounts of highly refined foods and gluten) and use the land for pasture.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recovering the Joy

A chronic illness does not have to take all the joy out of life. My passion for hiking is an example. I have always loved the great outdoors; nature, wild life, gorgeous views, and the invigoration that comes with exercise. I formerly held visions of spending the rest of my life conquering the ‘fourteeners’ of Colorado. But then Chronic Fatigue Syndrome invaded my life and I had to abandon those dreams. It was very painful. But I have come to the realization that I can continue to hike and enjoy the outdoors. It simply has to be done in smaller pieces.

Acadia National Park is a wonderful place to hike with trails for people of varying abilities. For those who love to hike but are restricted by a health problem, there are many short sweet trails winding through some of the most stunning beauty. It is a treat and I’m relishing every bit of it!

I do lose the opportunity to boast. Saying, “I climbed the 173 foot summit of Bar Island!” is not nearly as impressive as “I climbed 14,115 foot Pikes Peak!” But maybe there are more important things than my pride.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Facing Reality

I may as well admit it. I have a chronic illness. I have been struggling with this health problem for ten years yet I maintain this stubborn notion that it will finally go away. I persist in thinking that I will find the cure. True healing is right around the corner and I’ll get back to normal. But it doesn’t happen. I have given up on doctors as far as this condition goes. There are some things that help and I have found ways to cope. But will it ever completely go away? I don’t know and to be honest it doesn’t seem likely.

Over the years I have followed a pattern of desperately searching for answers, surging with hope when I come across a promising discovery and aching disappointment when the answer fails to be the ultimate solution.

Pride and shame keep me from admitting the obvious. It is painful to admit that I am flawed—that my body is broken. It is particularly painful to tolerate such little physical activity after previously perceiving myself as relatively athletic.

There is a certain comfort in acceptance. I can let go and quit fighting and pretending. Acceptance does not mean giving up but learning to adapt to life in a new way.

It has been a long journey but the following are things that have helped me so far:

• Practicing the relaxation response, meditation, and proper breathing technique
• Careful pacing of activity and rest
• Overcoming insomnia through the Conquering Insomnia program
• Eating low-carbohydrate and gluten-free
• Finding comfort from the myriad personal blogs on living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia/ME

I am staying with our daughter and family for a few weeks. My main job is helping out with care for 7 month old Julian while she waits for a more permanent child care situation. Sarah and Andrew are very busy with their jobs and parenting highly energized three year old Henry and baby Julian. I wish I could do more to help them but my energy levels get depleted so quickly. I keep hitting the wall of numbing fatigue, headache and sore throat and then I have to back off and rest until my energy reserves are replenished. This is very frustrating.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Learning to Sleep Again

One morning six months ago I rose to another dreary day of sleep deprived exhaustion. I was so tired of feeling tired. I have struggled with insomnia on and off for most of my adult life but recently the problem had plumbed new depths.

For almost twenty years I relied on a medication to help me sleep that my doctor assured me I could take safely for the rest of my life. That stopped abruptly when the pharmaceutical company ceased to manufacture it. However, once off of it I felt healthier and stronger. It seemed that there was a link between the medication and the poorer health that I had been experiencing and I regretted I had taken it for so many years. From then on I wanted to abstain from sleeping pills as I realized that all medications have undesirable side effects. Medications can be helpful in the short term but unless absolutely necessary, taking medications long term may introduce new health problems. And in particular, current medical wisdom advises against taking sleeping pills long term.

Thus on this specific day in December, strangled in the web of brain fog and the malaise of fatigue, I resolved that I would find a drug-free answer. I simply refused to live this way anymore. The nights were miserable and the days were even worse. I cried out to God. If this was ‘the thorn in the flesh’ that God wanted me to live with, so be it, but I wasn’t going to accept it without a fight.

I spent the morning browsing the internet for answers. I came across all kinds of ads, gimmicks and websites designed to appeal to sufferers of insomnia. Intuitively I rejected most of them. Then something caught my eye. It was a website for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. It had a link to a Good Housekeeping article and the author drew me in with her well written humorous style and I could identify with her sleeping difficulties. She explained how the drug-free CBT for Insomnia program had helped her and she gave me hope. I examined it carefully. The five week long program is designed and run by psychologist Dr. Gregg Jacobs. It provides instructional material to be read and studied each week and the participant is required to keep a sleep diary which is examined and returned with directions regarding one’s sleep schedule. The cost was only $25. What was there to lose?

The timing of all of this fell over Christmas week. Normally I would wait until after Christmas to start a program of any kind but I craved immediate relief. Fortunately our Christmas plans were low key and I thought this was as good a time as any to get going on it. However, not only did the course span Christmas and New Year’s but also the time we would spend out east with Sarah and Andrew as she was due to deliver her second baby.

In spite of the holidays and traveling I followed the program faithfully; not because I was dutiful or disciplined but because I was desperate. I didn’t see immediate results. I knew it was a process and it could take some time and practice to achieve success. But toward the end of the program I could tell it was working. I had fewer of those miserable, restless nights and zombie-like days and was generally feeling more rested and energetic than I had in a long time.

The program didn’t help me in the way I expected. I had always believed the hype that one needs eight hours of sleep. I thought for sure that I was one of those people. So I assumed that that was what I would get from the program—eight solid hours of good sleep. Gregg Jacobs says no. Some people need less. My program was structured so that I was advised to get no more than 7 hours. But I found that I did fine on that—even 6 hours some nights is all I need. In fact, Jacobs suggests that the ‘eight hour hype’ is promoted by pharmaceutical companies in an effort to sell more of their sleeping pills.

I decided to let a good amount of time go by before I would tell my story. I wanted to avoid premature claims that I had conquered my insomnia. But generally speaking it worked, and I am very happy to enjoy regular good sleep.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My California Trip

Consisted of:

Visiting relatives

Not only Uncle Brennan and Bill and Kathy who are pictured here but Steve and Wendy and Don too (I was mad at myself for forgetting to take their photos)

Visiting Friends

Brad (Sean's old roommate from USC) and Cathy and Noah

Justin (Sean's present roommate)

Seeing two great museums with gardens

The Huntington Library and Gardens

The fabulous Getty Center

Attending Sean's church: experiencing and appreciating Tommie Walker's music

Seeing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo because it hadn't been playing anywhere near Colorado

Enjoying lots of fun eateries:

The Carousel

The Trattoria Amici at The Americana

Aunty Ems

The Oinkster

Cafe Beaujolais

Ruby's Diner on the pier at Huntington Beach

Spending time with Sean who graciously allowed his mother to hang out with him and drove her all over the place on those crazy freeways

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I love unusual wildlife sightings. For thousands of years it was probably no big deal  for human beings to observe most any kind of wildlife but in my modern world such occurrences are rare—like precious jewels. My recent gem is a Great Horned Owl who has taken to hanging around our house. For the past month I have heard intermittent hooting and have wondered if it was an owl or a mourning dove.(I am a dumb suburbanite.) And then one evening just before dusk, I was preparing supper when out of the corner of my eye a large pair of wings swooped by our kitchen windows. I followed the flight of those wings as a large bird lit on the branch of a tree 50 feet from our house. Although well camouflaged in the woods, I could discern the outline of an owl. I admired the noble creature through binoculars and marveled at its great puffy feathery body. I thrilled as I realized that it seemed to be watching me too. Then it amused me by turning its head completely around without turning its body, in typical owl like fashion, as it observed something directly behind. Several times it leaned forward and rocked rhythmically as it called hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo.
I longed for another sighting but assumed that I would have to settle for merely listening to its hooting in the night. However, late yesterday a commotion by a couple crows drew me to a window and there was my owl perched in a tree closer to the house than last time. The crows fluttered around it cawing excitedly while it maintained a dignified posture. Finally they left and I observed the owl in peace. Again I used binoculars and saw that it was staring back at me, direct eye contact—eerie but thrilling. It lingered in the golden glow of the setting sun for about an hour and then plunged from its perch and soared out of view. I’m looking forward to my next sighting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Skiing

This past weekend I enjoyed a rare surge of energy. We were skiing at Keystone on the last day of its 2009/2010 season. White peaks glistening against blue sky, soft mountain breezes, crisp snow, bright sun and the scent of pine made for a time of wonder and joy. I was able to take more runs than usual and I enjoyed a feeling of renewed confidence in my ski legs and ski feet as I negotiated each trail. It was a pleasant change to appreciate the wind on my face rather than brace against it when we rode the chairlift. At lunchtime, Kim and I flopped into Adirondack chairs by Labonte Cabin’s ‘Beach’ and luxuriated in the warmth of the sun. Life is good when you can enjoy a sense of well being and the beauty of God’s creation.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Cross of Emmanuel

We went to the Good Friday concert at First Pres last night and as usual Jim DeJarnette was wonderful. He not only led the music, directing the choir and musicians, but he led the service as well. In my humble opinion he is one of the few Christian leaders who ‘gets it’ or at least communicates that he ‘gets it’. His faith is real and genuine and he makes Christianity look like something you want to be a part of not only because it would be good for you (a future in heaven rather than hell) but because it is so beautiful and eternally true. He is not exactly a dynamic speaker but he is sincere and authentic and speaks with the kind of quiet authority that I imagine people saw in Jesus.

The theme of the service was ‘The Cross of Emmanuel’ with an emphasis on the meaning of the name, God with us. All of the lovely music, scripture and other parts of the service revolved around this theme.

He started the service by introducing a piece of artwork; “The Crucifixion” painted by Grunewald around 1515. This piece was commissioned for the Antoinite monastery at Isenheim, Germany with the purpose of providing comfort for the patients in the monastic hospital. These patients suffered from hideous, humiliating skin diseases that distorted and disfigured their bodies. When Grunevald painted his crucifixion he painted Jesus, not as some sort of superhero who looked pretty good despite being tortured on a Roman cross, like many other painters of the time, but as one suffering with the outward physical symptoms of some of these diseases in addition to the agonies of the cross. The painting depicts him as having the strange contorted swelling and skin discoloration that the patients of this hospice had. Grunewald was saying to these people, “Look, this Jesus identifies with your suffering. He died for you.”

The service also involved a conversation between Jim DeJarnette and Dan Woolley, a man who works for Compassion International and survived the collapse of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Dan described the horrific physical experience that he endured as well as the rescue that took place sixty hours after the earthquake. Jim’s questions drew out from Dan how he experienced God with him during that ordeal.

Humanly speaking it is easy to focus on Dan as the one who God saved. But Jim also drew our attention to Dan’s companion, Dave Hames, who did not survive the quake. God was with him also, Jim explained. God plucked Dan out of that collapsed building to go back to his country and his family but he plucked Dave out of the earthquake to be with Him. To reinforce that point Jim led the choir in “How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place” by Brahms. He also assured the congregation that God is with each one of us in our unique situations.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pippi Longstocking II

I recently finished The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The book is full of violence and bad language, things I usually abhor in books and movies but I can’t help it—I’m enthralled with the character of Lisbeth Salander. Her character is loosely based on Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking.

I read the first book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while traveling in Sweden last summer. It was fun to read it while immersed in Swedish culture and to see some of the countryside and places where the story is set. The book was prominently displayed in all the bookstores and I observed that people were reading it everywhere—airports, bus stations, etc. The Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women. Intriguing. Why did the publishers of the English edition change the name? Did they assume that the book would not sell with the Swedish title?

I love the fantasy of Lisbeth’s extreme intelligence, photographic memory and her remarkable ability to defend herself. It is fascinating to me that the same sense of liberation and delight that I received as a child from reading about the antics of Pippi Longstocking, I now get as an adult from reading about Lisbeth Salander. Although she refuses to see herself as a victim she has a certain underdog status resulting from childhood tragedy with which it is easy to empathize. Then there is the joy and exhilaration when she fights back. I love her sense of justice and moral clarity.

I appreciate how Stieg Larsson’s moral outrage (at racism, sexism and the abuses of power) shines forth in these books. As a journalist he fought neo-Nazi activity in Sweden for many years. I feel sad that he died young and was unable to fulfill his ambition to write ten books in this series. His writing has inspired me to give more support to such organizations as Not For Sale.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Questioning the Faith of Others and the Existence of Moroni

I cannot help but think the Mormon faith is weird. I have a persistent Christian faith, despite all my doubts and questions, and I realize that many think my faith is foolish. But a guy finding golden tablets in a hillside and reading them with special glasses—doesn’t that just seem silly? My apologies to all the followers of Joseph Smith—I realize that many of them are sincere folks with a reputation for good morals and solid families.
This is on my mind because I have been reading The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, a fictional account based on historical events surrounding the life of the 19th wife of Brigham Young. With her influence the Mormon Church officially banished the practice of polygamy. However, some fundamental Mormon sects continue it to this day and in the process destroy many lives.
Since moving to Colorado over twenty years ago, I have grown more aware of the Church of Latter Day Saints because of the proximity to Utah. I have a great deal of curiosity about it which has led me to read several books pertaining to the subject; Martha Beck’s books, Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, etc.
On our flight from Boston last weekend we sat amongst a group traveling to Utah. My antennae went up as I heard some of them vigorously discussing various aspects of the Mormon faith. But I was frustrated at being unable to hear them clearly. I so wanted to eavesdrop on their conversation.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lenten Questions

For those of us who are fond of creation; cows, goats, lambs, doves, the Old Testament writings teach that God created all of that but they also detail the preparation and execution of the offerings and this is particularly painful to read and the purpose is not entirely clear. In a number of areas in the Bible, several if not hundreds of animals are slaughtered for burnt offerings. How does slaughtering and burning animals pay homage to God?

I was listening to a podcast from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and this was a question posed to Dallas Willard during a question and answer session as he shared the podium with pastor John Ortberg. It is a haunting question. I like animals. I hate the thought of them being slaughtered. I am not a vegetarian and sometimes I feel a little guilty about that. But I believe I need to eat meat in moderation to stay healthy. I am ensconced in my suburban home, buy my meat neatly packaged at the supermarket and never have to think about my food as animals that are butchered. When I do think about it, I just hope that they were killed in a merciful quick way and didn’t have to suffer. But I don’t know and I have no control over that. Do we have the choice of buying meat from kind, compassionate farmers and butchers? This is an area I would like to explore.

I appreciate the passage from the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier when Inman, a wounded deserter from the confederate army stumbles upon the old goat woman. In addition to giving him medicine and advice, she prepares a life giving meal for him. She gently strokes a young goat, almost lulling it to sleep before silently and swiftly cutting its throat. She demonstrates that she needs the animal for sustenance but she also has reverence for it.

Anyway, back to the question above. I had always assumed that the reason behind animal sacrifices was because of the biblical dictum, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.” (Hebrews 9:22) Although it makes me shudder I have always accepted this as a part of my faith. Dallas Willard didn’t touch on this at all. Instead he talked about God’s willingness to meet us where we are and that is where the ancient people of God were during the time period of the Old Testament writings. He states that animal sacrifice was not part of God’s ultimate plan. Perhaps this is so and there is more to the story that I have yet to learn.

What about Jesus, the Lamb of God? It is painful to read about the torture and death that he endured. Sometimes I dread Easter because of this. I love the resurrection part of the story but it is painful to contemplate the horrors of the crucifixion. If he had to die for us why did God allow him to die in this way? Couldn’t Jesus have been born into another culture and hung on the gallows, shot, given lethal injection or some other less cruel way to die? I have heard someone say that the reason he could not accept Christianity was because he could not fathom that God the Father would allow such a death for his Son. I can understand this sentiment but as a Christian I accept the thread of sacrifice and redemption that runs through the history book of God’s salvation (otherwise known as the Bible) even if I fail to totally understand it.

The deeper question here is, “Is the God of the Bible a good being?” For the record I believe He is. He offers all people a relationship with Him and I wouldn’t trade the love and grace He so freely gives me for anything.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


It’s funny…now that this incredible thing has happened, it is almost all I think about. How amazing, I think…certainly the most beautiful and wonderful thing that has happened to me. And yet it is not unique. It happens every day, hundreds of times, to so many different people. But if that is so, why isn’t the birth of every new and precious little one all anyone ever wants to talk about? Why isn’t everyone talking about this everywhere you go?     -Andrew after the birth of Henry

There is something about having a child--you are met head on with an amazing miracle. And it happens all over again when you have a grandchild. Each birth is a celebration of life but this is one more time God has graciously allowed you to have something to do with it. You are given the privilege to witness a little piece of you going on two generations later.

With your own children there is the opportunity and burden of great responsibility—not to mention sleepless nights and countless anxious moments. However, with grandchildren it is sheer enjoyment. Hopefully by now you have accumulated wisdom and experience and show more grace to your grandchildren than you did to your own children. And like we all do they need that kind of unconditional love.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Big Relapse

Last year at this time I was optimistic about my apparent recovery from fibromyalgia. I thought that a medication I had been taking was the source of my fibromyalgia symptoms because when I had to discontinue it, I felt much better. I explain this in my blogs: and

However, I ran into a roadblock last July (around the time of the hailstorm) when out of the blue came a major relapse. Something must have triggered it but it was so sudden and unexpected. Perhaps I pushed a little too hard with my lap swimming. Anyway, it sent me crashing over the edge and wham; I was hit hard with all the old symptoms; crushing overwhelming fatigue, malaise, pain and brain fog. I went from being fairly active everyday to feeling too ill to do anything. Although I still thought it was a good thing that I was forcibly weaned from Surmontil, I had to admit that I had a peculiar health problem. I lacked energy to do anything but the most fundamental activities. For the last part of July I spent two weeks doing as little as possible and with rest and careful pacing I gradually built myself back up to a tolerable level.

It was during this time that I discovered the term post-exertional malaise. All along this had been the symptom that baffled and plagued me most yet I didn’t have a name for it. It was very frustrating trying to explain this phenomenon to others. No one seemed to get it. Even my various doctors failed to understand. It is the symptom that is aligned with CFS rather than fibromyalgia.

It became clear to me that I had been misdiagnosed. Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are closely related but my symptoms definitely fall in line with CFS rather than Fibromyalgia. I felt frustrated that my doctor failed to recognize that. But from this point on I embarked on learning everything I could about CFS.

Activities for August were already planned and it was too late to change them. Blind optimism and a bit of denial persuaded me that I would be able to handle everything with ease. Sarah and Henry were to fly from Massachusetts to visit us for ten days and I had been looking forward to that very much. We invited Kim’s parents from Illinois as well so Sarah could visit with them and they could enjoy their great-grandson. The family time was great and it was especially precious to spend time with my grandson. But the effort to be a good hostess was excruciatingly difficult. On top of that I had a trip planned to Scandinavia for the latter part of August. I love travel and was very excited about that trip. On the outside everything went well but on the inside I really struggled. I was in pain the entire time.

When I returned from the trip I collapsed. It took three months to return to a reasonable level of function and three more months until I felt “normal.” During the hardest times I felt forced to step off the road of life and hide like a wounded animal.

What really helped me during this time are my ‘internet doctors’ who gave me hope and a means to cope. There are two that stand out. Nadine Sauber’s colorful blog gives me information about diet and other aspects of recovering from CFS.  Bruce Campbell’s blog and Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Self-Help program has taught me the supreme importance of pacing. Not only do they give me a lot of information and guidance but they also encourage me when they remind me that I’m not alone with this condition.

I have learned that I cannot rely on traditional medicine to help me. Maybe there are some medical doctors out there who understand and know what to do for patients such as myself but I despair of ever finding one. I have had too many bad experiences and it is simply too expensive to keep looking. Doctors either prescribe medication or do surgery. Obviously there is no need for surgery for CFS and drugs only seem to make the condition worse. Recovery for some chronic health problems such as CFS must be done by the patient—basically taking super good care of oneself. This is summarized in Nadine Sauber’s healing formula: Real whole food alkaline diet + restorative sleep + elimination of toxins and stressors + being positive and hopeful + regular graded exercise and pacing + consistency + time. I would add ‘relaxation techniques’ such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback and breathing techniques.

With strict adherence to this formula one can recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Although my healing isn't complete, I have come a long way and I have read about others who have had substantial recovery.  Many people are lucky enough to be healthy by default. Others of us have to learn or relearn what good health is all about. Most doctors don’t do education and that is what CFS sufferers (provided they don't have another medical condition) need most.