Posted in Be Present, Be Still, Breathe, FELE, Listening, Love, Simplify, Slow Down, TMJ, Type A, Uncategorized

Dragging Dogs

Today was a good day. I failed my state certification exam. Again. By one point. Again. There’s irony behind it. This is a written test. Like a sit down, look at a prompt, draft an outline, and write kind of assessment. Written. Y’all! I once won a state poetry contest. So what if it was in 1994. I even beat out my older sister who is a much better writer than I will ever be. I studied creative writing at Florida State University. I’ve written a 123-page thesis on homelessness. Homelessness. I’ve been a high school English teacher for 10 years. I do this every day. I write. Hell, I do this in my free time. I write. And yet, I can’t seem to pass this written test. But like I said, it was a good day. I failed the exam.

I’m an overachiever. The type A personality. The outgoing one. The one who can do it all with perceived ease. The one that you want in your group when a collaboration project is assigned. The one who will keep a conversation going with a mute. For hours. In so many ways, it’s a blessing. But in many, many more, it’s a curse. Trying to get me to slow me down is equivalent to asking Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account. Nearly impossible. I’m always on the fast track of everything. The all or nothing girl. The it has to happen now chick. In relationships, house cleaning, parenting, gardening, furniture painting, career climbing, grocery shopping, even walking. You should see me in Target with a cart. Rather, you should look for me in Target with a cart. Good luck. I don’t stay in one department too long. And I feel sorry for anyone who has to keep up with me.

I especially feel sorry for Nola. My sweet elderly pup. I got her almost 12 years ago at a time when I needed her most. When I needed someone to keep me warm. When I needed someone to love me without expectations. Life was rough at the time. Turns out hers was, too. We met each other at the dog pound. She was so tiny in that big cage. So vulnerable. You could have said the same about me. And my mom and I knew one of us had to bring her home. So I did. And we loved each other. A lot. We probably saved each other. But I’ll be frank. Since then she’s driven me nuts. Insane. Parenting an animal is harder than a human. Period.

I’m not sure to do with Nola. Let’s be honest. I don’t know what to do with myself most days much less a small creature. For starters, her breath is horrible. Even the faintest waft will startle you. And what’s worse is that the minute I sit down, she’s all over me breathing in my face. Same goes for anyone who visits. If they’re not careful they end up with Nola’s tongue in their mouth, shrimp seasoned and all. Bless their hearts. They haven’t had the nearly 12 years of practice avoiding that unfortunate experience like I have. But no matter my efforts. No matter chew toys or breath sticks. Putrid it remains.

Another thing I struggle with is her constant jittering. She is part Chihuahua most likely off the streets of Tijuana. Like the worst parts of Tijuana. Which, now that I think about it, is probably why she has such an interesting aroma. Her incessant shaking and displays of nervousness give me anxiety. Like I really need more of that. I do not. Even a pheromone collar won’t do the trick. And as of late, the madness continues with her bladder. Poor girl has to take diuretics for her heart condition so the drinking and tinkling has quadrupled in volume. I can’t keep up with her potty breaks. Most days she pees on the only inch of the bathroom mat not covered by piddle pads. I swear. And to be honest, I’m sick of washing this damn rug.

So we go for a walk. These walks used to be 2 miles or more with her trotting ahead of me the whole way. Nowadays, she starts out by hopping around as I put on her collar. And before I can even shut the garage door she’s begun her sprint across the cul-de-sac. Sometimes I even have to hold her back from running into traffic. But several hundred feet in she starts to slow down. She lingers a little more at her sniffle spots. Stops and stares into the sky with her squint-y eyes. And watches the neighbors frantically reign in their barking canines. I think she’s laughing at them. I kind of am, too. It took me a while to realize I needed to slow down with her. Truthfully, I didn’t actually figure this out until last Monday.

We were doing our usual loop around the hood. Up one side of the street. Back down the other. Then I looked behind me and realized I was nearly dragging Nola home. I’m not kidding. Here I was, all wrapped up in my own head. Hurrying about. Thinking about what I needed to do when I got home. Or later that night. Or the next morning. Or next year (I’m actually positive it was next year). And all the while, she’s struggling to keep up, probably yelling, “Um, mom. I’m dying here. Literally. Could you please slow down?” And I thought to myself – damn girl, check your pace.

You could probably guess that I often bite off more than I can chew. No pun intended. Like when I decided in my first year of single motherhood to go to graduate school. Again. While working full time and still learning how to take care of myself and my girl. Alone. Because I needed a new challenge. Something to keep me busy. Career advancement. More money. All or nothing. Or when I decided I needed to sell my marital home in the midst of this. Right now. A sale that would require a ridiculous amount of painting. Approximately 1000 square feet of decking to be clear. But I did it. On one spring day. Multiple coats. Alone. And while writing a final essay for my Educational Law class in between drying. Are you out of breath yet? I am. And at the time I couldn’t figure out why I was so flippin’ exhausted every night. Or why I would fall into bed wondering how I would get up the next morning and do it all over again. I was that type A. And I’m not proud of it. Not at all.

I had a breakdown not long after all this. An MS relapse (forgot to mention I have that – multiple sclerosis). A completely unhealthy state. The sickest I had been in my entire life. And I didn’t tell anyone. Of course my family knew. My coworkers knew of some of it. I was forced to take six weeks of FMLA so I couldn’t hide that something was going on. But my closest friends didn’t know. The guy I was dating didn’t know. I went to therapy every day learning how to take care of myself. And I hid it. I was ashamed. I had to admit defeat. I had to admit that I didn’t have my shit together. That I had spiraled out of control. That I wasn’t listening to my body. To God. To my mom. To my sisters. They all knew I had gone too far this time. And I didn’t listen. Until my body gave out.

If you’ve been following this blog then you know I’ve been trying really hard to slow down. If you know me in real life, you know this is huge. Like a hand-delivered miracle from Jesus. I believe my present circumstance – you know, the jacked up jaw situation – is not a coincidence. It is a gift. And I believe that is God is working his ass off on me right now with this gift. I think I’ve gotten less type A (ahem, neurotic) in the last couple of years. Especially as of late. My family and friends may disagree. It’s true I still set ridiculously high expectations for myself. Expectations that I’d never impart on another being. I still add more to my plate than I’m capable of eating. And sadly, I will still try to eat it all. Or at the very least, throw it in the Ninja. My new best friend. And while I wish it weren’t true, I still push myself to limits that are often unhealthy all for the sake of feeling accomplished. “Something’s got to give,” God says. And so my TMJ begins to disintegrate. I start realizing it’s really time to shut up. I start truly listening to God and noticing what He’s placing around me. I start taking deeper breaths as quickly as I can (progress, people, not perfection). I starting looking around and within. I start clearing my desk of all the clutter. I start checking my pace. I start noticing I’m dragging around too many dogs. And I start realizing I need to tell all of you about all of this.

I’m trying to go easy on Nola these days. After all, she is well over 100 in human years. I’m also trying to go easy on myself as I round the homestretch to 40….which will most likely be celebrated in surgical braces and a jaw splint while drinking tequila from a straw. I can’t wait. And I know exactly why I failed that test. Twice. I wasn’t listening. I was merely talking. Telling myself what I needed to do. Telling myself what I needed to be. Forcing myself down the wrong path. Forcing a life that I wasn’t ready for. Moving too fast. All or nothing. Right now. Because that’s what I do. I mean, did. That’s what I did. Thank God for a joint that has died in my skull. Thank God for last Monday when I drug Nola down the sidewalk. Because now. Now! I finally realize I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t have to force conversation. Or love. Or grocery carts. Or career advancement. Or Nola. Or anything. Instead, I get to listen. I get to check my pace. And I don’t have to decide if I retake that damn exam again. All I have to do is be still. Keep quiet. Pay attention. Listen. Sweet Jesus, that’s a hell of relief.

See. I told you. It was a good day.

Update: on May 6, 2017 our sweet Nola went to doggie heaven. We loved that girl so much but feel such relief knowing she’s at peace and sunning all day up there with all the other great doggies of the world!

Posted in Be Brave, Be Still, Breathe, Dr. Piper, Listen, Open Joint Arthroplasty, Slow Down, TMJ, TMJ Surgery

LaCroix and Mustaches

People keep asking me about this jaw thing. I mean, I can’t blame them. I kinda keep posting about it and talking about it, you know while I still can. My favorite question – and no offense to the people I love that have asked this – so you like, have TMJ? Y’all! Asking if I have TMJ is like asking me if have a knee. Or an elbow. Or a pinky toe. TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. And if you yawn or eat or talk or open your mouth at all, you have one! Some just work a little better than others. My left TMJ happens to be dead currently. Not working so well.


What’s common are TMJ disorders. My guess is most of you have or have had some type of TMJ pain. How can you not? It’s 2017, the world is crazy, we can’t keep up with half the shit on our plates (oops, sorry. I do love Jesus but I also cuss a little. Or a lot. Ok, a lot.), and for the love of all things holy, we have to spend $5 for a 12 pack of LaCroix. Life is stressful! So we bite down. Hard. We grind our teeth. Hard. We clench our jaws. Hard. Most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

My case of TMJ issues started a couple years ago with a boy. Or so I thought. You know how it is when you’re all crazy about someone and the kissing is all passionate and exciting! Then your jaw pops. And you’re like – what the hell just happened? C’mon. I know I’m not alone in this. But if I wanted to continue kissing said boy I had to find a way to get around the popping so I could enjoy more of the kissing. A bite guard. That’s the answer! $500 later and two months of wear, the popping stopped and the kissing ensued. It was lovely.

But then the pain began. And for anyone who has experienced pain or chronic pain, then you know about playing games with yourself to find relief. Like if I wear my bite guard tonight, I’ll feel better tomorrow. Or if I wear the bite guard for two days and stop wearing it for another two, that’ll fix the problem. Or better yet if I take three Advil liquid gels (I should buy stock) before bed, and wear the bite guard every Monday through Friday, the pain will subside for weekend festivities. And you know, for most people with TMJ trouble that probably is accurate. Stress lessens, LaCroix goes BOGO at Publix, the shit on your plate actually becomes kind of enjoyable, and the world begins to come together with a little bit of love and peace and hope. And no, I do not have a political agenda.

There are over 3 million people who have TMJ concerns. I’ve been told that 95% of them are mostly muscular issues. Relief is possible. Think massages and muscle relaxers and spa treatments. Ahhhh. I can hear the little water falls trickling now (look at me all listening and stuff). About 5% have some type of dysfunction of their TMJ and of those 5%, 1% require open joint surgery to repair it. So I pretty much hit the flippin lottery when it comes to TMJ! Like, I’m playing Powerball from now on. I’m that lucky. And sidenote – I really hope I win something because the cost of this surgery is no joke. It’s like the equivalent of a Mercedes-Benz C class. No, more like a Land Rover LR3. Oh my gosh! I’m going to have a jaw that’s as valuable as a sleek SUV. That’s kind of sweet!

So what’s next? Surgery. Open joint arthroplasty to be exact. Really this is just a fancy term for…. we’re going to move your ear up and over to the side for you so that we can get to where your joint is. And then we’re going to remove the defunct disk that’s blocking off blood supply to the bone. You know, the one that’s dead. Next we’re going to take a few centimeters of fat from your abdomen. And that’s where I stop him and say – do you think you could take a little more? And then I think oh wait, 9 months of a no chew diet. Never mind just leave the fat there. I’m probably going to need it. So they take the minuscule portion of fat, create a new disk to replace the jacked up one, pump my blood vessels up with ketamine to promote healing of the dead bone, wire me shut (holy hell), put my ear back in place, and stitch me up. Voila, in five short hours, an LR3-styled jaw made just for me.

I’m not sure about the rest. Well, I know little bit about the rest. And it doesn’t sound very pleasant. It actually sounds like hell. Maybe worse. But y’all! I’m really excited. Never mind that I might finally have the chance to live without head pain or eat anything I damn well please, I get to kick back and keep my mouth shut for a while. All this talk of not talking has me on the edge of my seat. I have a wild new adventure ahead of me and I can almost hardly wait! No surgery date has been set but stay tuned. I’ll be listening intently the next time I talk with my surgeon, who by the way is Dr. Mark A. Piper in St. Petersburg and he sports the coolest mustache I’ve ever seen. Like Groucho Marx except much cooler because he wears these chic small round glasses, too. He’s like the king of TMJ and mustaches. And you know what, he’s a really good listener.

Posted in Dr. Piper, Jesus, Listen, Open Joint Arthroplasty, TMJ, TMJ Surgery, Trust

Keep Your Mouth Shut

A few weeks ago every proverbial pot in my life was moved off to the side for cooling. What I expected pain management or massage therapy to be the answer to my TMJ pain turned into my worst nightmare. Literally.

But guess what, God was not surprised!

Over 500 miles, two MRIs, multiple talks off the ledge, a CT scan, a nerve block (the best part hands down – the picture below does not give it justice), 2 specialists, buckets of tears, a surgeon, 75 panic attacks, and countless hours of Google searches, I faced the reality that I would need open joint arthroplasty on my left TMJ. If you’re curious what that means, I encourage you to Google it. There are very graphic images and countless blogs outlining every step of the procedure and the aftermath. Believe me, I have seen and read them all! I have also worried myself to death over little things like how am I going to breathe with my jaw wired shut (worst nightmare) or how I’m going to talk when my jaw is closed for 90% of the day… larger things like when will I be able to bite into a juicy cheeseburger again, or have the pleasure of kissing a kind boy once more. I mean really. Those are two very important things in life (namely the kissing of the boy, or if in your case, the girl, which is wonderful and we should all be doing more of it)! Sadly, when you’re looking down a road of 9 months to possibly 2 years of recovery, those very basic human functions come into question.

But guess what, God was not surprised!

I’ve had to face some of my greatest fears in these last few weeks but I’m no longer living in a state of panic, sadness, and fear. I keep reminding myself that God is not surprised! This experience will be another amazing story in my journey with Jesus and though I have my own theories about His purpose here, I also know that any plans He has are greater than I can ever imagine.

He is not surprised!

Kind of funny isn’t it?! This super chatty chick is going to have to keep her mouth shut. Like, for real. Like, for a while. He has such a great sense of humor, doesn’t He? I can’t wait to sit and listen.

The Nerve Block