An Overdue Update for TeamRZ!

Dear friends,

IMAG4280So much has happened since we last spoke, I don’t even know where to begin. First, let me say this – Ed and I are doing great! Ok, now for the nitty gritty.

question-mark-mapSince about the spring of 2015, Ed knew that he was ready to leave the military, and pursue a civilian career.  We talked and prayed a lot as a couple about this, and both felt God pulling us to something new…yet what that new thing would be, we had no idea!  We were excited for the future, and tried to be open to any and all possibilities – would God call us back north to Chicago?  Near our old family and friends?  Maybe Texas – Ed had several job options out that way, and it would be wonderful to spend time with my dear relatives in Austin.  Maybe Equidor, or Chili…I mean, everything was on the table at one point or another.  My secret hope was that we would stay in the warm weather as I am now thoroughly spoiled by the Florida.  Or someplace with water.  I love the water.  From our home by Orlando, it was about 50 minutes to any beach on the East Coast, and I went as often as I could!

Well, after all this consideration, prayer, and sudo-planning…Ed landed a job…in Florida!  He actually had several possibilities, but the best full-time offer came from a Christian news outlet just a little further south…in a beach town!  It’s that amazing?  Even from Chicago, I prayed for a warmer home, I built my business around a sailing theme, I dreamed of life on the water…and here we are.  From out new home, it is 15 minutes to Ed’s office, 15 minutes to the one and only Panera, (it’s a small town, only 2 Starbucks big), and 10 minutes drive down the road and over the bridge to the Atlantic!  Ha, can you believe it?

IMAG4354Now, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I mean, it’s Florida, so many days it is, but there is plenty of rain – literally and figuratively.  When Ed got the offer, we had to finalize paper work with the army for his separation, (he served 2 full tours, 8 years total, so it wasn’t retirement, just finishing with honor), we had to find a house to rent that would take our dogs, we had to get out of our current lease, (only a month left, but still), and all of this as soon as possible because they were ready for him to start immediately.  Well, I looked for houses, but as this is a snow-bird town, and the grannies had all flown south for the winter already, options were slim – only about 3 homes that fit our criteria from week to week, so there was some stress trying to make trips to see something, fill out paper work, and still wait on his military paperwork.  God is good, and I believe His timing and plan is perfect, so I will say that I had a lot of inner peace in my heart about this whole move – I still do.  However, there was a LOT of external stress when Ed told me the day before Thanksgiving that all the papers came through from the army, our housing application was approved, and were were moving that weekend.  WHAT!?!  Why are husbands so crazy??

IMG_6377So, I cried.  What else is a girl supposed to do?  Then I called moving companies, friends, and favors in before the holiday to see who could come help us over the weekend.  Thursday, we spent a beautiful relaxing day with friends, and gave thanks.  Then, Friday, we woke up, and began Oporation Move-Out with zeal!  I had some help to pack all day Friday and Saturday, the movers came Sunday, and I drove back to close up and clean the old house on Monday.  Then, that was that.  Our new life, post military had begun.IMAG3927

By the way, my health held up through all of the moving process, but by Christmas, I was toast.  The last few weeks have been up and down, I think my body and brain are still trying to adjust to everything that has changed.  New place, new schedules, different food, (I miss our local organic stores!  The selection is not as good here.), and still organizing boxes.  Also, the new place might be beach-friendly, but is almost half the size of our last place.  Soooo, still trying to figure out where to put stuff, if there is anything to get rid of, and where to store everything else.

IMAG4287When I feel ready to complain through, I just step outside, and feel the wind whipping across the grass from the ocean only a mile away…and yup, life is good.

 

Too Much Gratitude for One Little Post

Hello my dear friends!

It has been too long since I posted an update here…and while I have been writing quite a bit, nothing has made it through a final edit.  How does that go…perfection is the enemy of productivity?  Yeah, you can quote me on that.

Feeling the love

Feeling the love

Here is the deal – today, (Tuesday, March 10th), has been a roller coaster of emotions, but at the moment, I am so over-flowing with gratitude, I had to seize the moment and share it with you.

As some of you may know, I was back in the hospital over Valentine’s Day for an infection that lasted about a week.  Since then, I am back to the crazy ride that is weening myself off steroids, pain meds, and asking myself the question,how can I be content with where I am in my life, yet be pursuing the future and all God may have in store?”  As someone who tends to over-do-it in whatever I may be doing, (exercise, decorating, cooking, working etc.), I have moments of energy and clarity where I rush forward, only to trip over my own tired self and have to slow it back down.

Perfect example – yesterday I was feeling great!  Hubby and I had a spring-cleaning marathon, and the house looks amazing – by our standards at least.  Yet, by the end of the night, I was sore, and getting emotional as my meds wore down and my body and mind started to give out.  Ed patiently rubbed my back and tucked me in, and I awoke this morning feeling refreshed.  I contentedly took my time today, rested, relaxed, proud of my full day yesterday, and enjoying a slow pace. Then, it happened.  Duh duh duhn…

Facebook evil demonI read it on Facebook!  Yet another one of my super-awesome friends achieved something super cool and everyone was super impressed and I was reminded what it was like to have a full-time job, 3 volunteer roles, and be constantly praised for my contributions!!  Uh oh, the nasty demons of Comparison, along with Pride and Guilt just completed the perfect crime – they robbed me of my Joy.

Now I’m not playing victim here, it was my fault, I gave into the temptation to let myself get jealous and down on myself.  I’ve actually been reading and seeing many blogs and posts on the topic of “choosing joy”, or “God’s joy”.  But what does that mean?  If you’re not feeling the joy, how do you choose it?  This has always been an almost impossible task for me.  I don’t know how to just switch my brain into the “joyful” position.  So, as the info-mercial says, “There’s gotta be a better way!”, and I think I’m figuring it out.

Palm-filtered rays

Palm-filtered rays

Late in the afternoon, I finally managed to drag myself out to the park – a feat I had been trying to accomplish since after breakfast.  I put Pandora on my headphones, first Adele, then Rihanna, and marched out into the sunshine.   I was struck not even a block in by the way the sunlight filtered through the palm fronds of my neighbors garden, so I stopped to take a picture.  Aligning the frame, waiting for just the perfect sparkle of light, my adrenaline leapt and I smiled to no one.

As I continued, I had a choice between winding through a ritzy neighborhood with lots of flowers and trees, (my usual choice), or turning right towards the smaller homes with the open rec fields.  The open land sported soccer nets, a basketball court, small baseball diamond, and swing sets.  As long as there wasn’t a pick-up game going on, I could march, hike, and do push-ups out in the sun to my heart,s content!  That was the better option, so I headed right.

Just the anticipation of a good sweat heightens my endorphins!

Just the anticipation of a good sweat heightens my endorphins!

I spent an hour in the sun, breathing the fresh, humid, air, hiking over the rough edges of the terrain, stopping to do jumping jacks and push ups on the court.  My playlist picked my favorite tunes and the beats kept me pushing myself until I finally felt the change in my body from tense to relaxed to exhilarated to exhausted, and as I found myself slowing, I took one last lap towards home.  I stretched my gait along the side-walk and smelled the heat rising from the pavement.  I felt the hot breeze rustle past me and rattle the palms beyond.  A car cruised by, kids called to each other in the distance, and tears began to blur the blue/green scene before me.  This was my joy.  My time, alone with God, in His beautifully created world, full of people with their own roller-coaster lives, just like me.  The mere fact that I could leave the house to experience this, almost overwhelmed my poor little heart.  I let a tear fall and didn’t care who was looking – I didn’t even put on my shades to hide it!

My gym today

My gym today

It had been almost a year – from December to August that I was too sick, in too much pain, in too much fear of what my body would do from moment to moment to venture far from my bed room….and here I was, strutting and jumping, and sashaying around the great-outdoors like an elf at Christmas.   Truly, it is a miracle, it is amazing, it is a gift!  And you know what?  That is the hardest part.

Take a break

Take a break

You see, when other people are getting promoted, publishing books, having kids, or starting a business…I think, wow, they are doing something!  In my story, for right now, I’m not doing anything…but God is doing something.   I have the most fantastic life, and the freedom to enjoy a season of healing…but this season is not about me, it’s not about my accomplishments, it’s about what God is doing in me, and around me…and maybe – hopefully – even a little bit through me.  So there!  That’s my joy. Seizing these opportunities, not letting myself feel guilty about enjoying them, not comparing myself to what anyone else is doing.  The Joy is thankfully accepting the Gift.

I was in a meeting once that was made up mostly of marathon runners, (yes, do you see why I have a complex?  I’ve only run one! But that’s another post,), and there was a debate between running the race to win, or for you best time, because it is a RACE after all, and everyone should be trying to do there best.  Verses the mentality of taking the time to talk to those around you, help those who may be hurting, or making a friend along the way.

We never came to a conclusion as to which was right, or which God would have us do…but here is what I think today.

Is this for you?

Is this for you?

The book of Hebrews says, “run as if to win the prize!”, but Ephesians says, “we are God’s masterpiece, created to do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  So the answer is, both!  Run with abandon towards your prize…but know that your prize is different from anyone else’s. Your prize could be won by sacrificing your own victory to help someone else, or it could be by setting a high bar for others to aspire to!  Whatever God’s treasure is for you, it is yours to win. No one can take it from you, but if you start chasing someone else’s, you’re going to miss out on the crown God has placed at the finish just for you!

I'll take this one please...

I’ll take this one please…

So today, with deep conviction, and so much gratitude I cannot even venture to express it here…I choose to run my own race, to chase my own prize, and to cheer you on to yours, every day that God gives me.

I’m so thankful for you friends, and am constantly inspired by the lives you live.  May you take your joy today – you deserve it!

Post-hospital radiance? Haircut and sunbathing will do wonders.

Post-hospital. Haircut and sunbathing will do wonders.

~ Morgen

Not My Best Speghetti

Feelin' fit - 2 weeks ago

Feelin’ fit – 2 weeks ago

Dear friends, 

I would like to thank all of you reading this for sticking with me on this journey.  I know it hasn’t always been easy, there have been several posts that raised an eyebrow, or illicited concerned emails…and I just can’t believe how much you care!  Thank you for your prayers, your patience, and your compassion.  Ed and I are so thankful for this community that shares life with us.  I always welcome your feedback, your own stories, and your questions.  We all learn to do life better together after all!

Here is what I learned today: (see, isn’t this nice?  I’m jumping right to the moral)  Today I was reminded that sometimes, not my best is better – than not me at all.  I’ll elaborate….

For those who follow me on Facebook, you know that 2 weeks ago I was hit with some kind of food poisoning or 24-hour bug that give my Crohn’s a nice little upset, and it hasn’t settled down since.  Right before that hit, I was doing great! Biking, hiking, back to a work-schedule…I felt like ME!  Praise the Lord.  Well, yesterday, I was so fed up and frustrated to be back in the “sick place” that I sobbed to God to “get the devil out of me”, and then tried drinking less, eating more, and changed up my supplements.  It seems to be helping, and today I feel a little bit better.

IMG_20150130_105526

Personal Best for Morning Afro

My husband – who likes to pretend that I’m always healthier than I look – had delegated me the task of making a post-work-out snack for his future soldiers today.  He said the snack should be spaghetti, and that I should make it for 10.  Ok, well, I said I would do my best thinking, even if I wasn’t feeling great, that wouldn’t be too hard.  Spaghetti is hard to screw up right?  I put out the meat to thaw in the morning, then did some work, ate lunch, and cautiously began the process.  Would my stomach hold out?  In general, for me, the hard part about cooking when I’ve been ill is just standing on my feet in one spot like that.  Even walking is easier because then you’ve got some momentum to keep you going.

As I boiled the water my husband called.  “Hi honey, hows it going…are you getting started?  Great!  Yeah, it’s going to be about 18 kids.”  WHAT!  I do not have a commercial kitchen with giant stock pot. And there wasn’t enough meat thawed!  Well, I had no choice but to “Be all that I could Be”, and put another pot on the stove.  3 pots, 4 pasta boxes, 3 marinara jars, and several pounds of turkey later, I looked at the finished product.  My dear sweet husband – who seems to think that food magically transforms with the help of the kitchen fairies – had bought the “angel hair” pasta rather than the spaghetti noodles, and even with olive oil and ice it was sticking together.  The marinara didn’t quite cover it as thoroughly as I would like, and the meat seemed sparse – although it tasted good.  The whole thing looked like a clumpy-mushy mess – if I had a casserole dish big enough and a little more sauce and cheese, I could have prettied it up, but it was time and the best I could do was give them one last stir and throw them in the oven to heat back up before Ed came to get them.

Sunsets always bring me to center

Sunsets always bring me to center

After he picked up the pots, I felt the desperate need to be out of that stuffy house and into the fresh air.  I hit the bathroom one last time, suited up, and climbed aboard my lovely new bike.  I might regret it later, but some exercise was needed for my mental sanity.  I was so angry thinking that the kids would probably pick at it, (I’d seen them turn down my organic cooking before), and my pride welled up at the thought that they would all assume “Sergeant Szall’s wife can’t even cook spaghetti”.  I had told Ed not to mention where it was from, just let them eat or reject it on it’s own merits.  However, I’m sure he told them he was “running home” to pick up the food.  Grrrr.  If only it wasn’t angle hair, if only I was feeling better, or my house was clean enough to ask another wife over to help, or if only I didn’t let myself get volunteered for stuff like this!  These kids were starting to cost us a lot of time and money as the months ad up, and I don’t even get to spend any time with them, so there isn’t even the benefit of the relationship in it for me.  It is purely out of Christian/wifely duty that I do this.

All these thoughts churned in my head as I turned the corner and rode towards the sinking sun.  I looked above me and took a deep breath, smelling the leaves and smoke from a grill.  With Pandora on my head phones I began to relax, and I couldn’t help it, I decided to pedal over to the park on say hi.  I’m just too social not to – and I was having a good hair day.

He usually trains them here, not in our neighborhood

He usually trains them here, not in our neighborhood

I swung into the park, and there was my husband, holding court with a group of youngsters sitting in the grass, half of them gnawing our organic green apples, the others scraping bowls.  I looked, and sure enough, on the ground were two empty pots and a pile of marinara-stained bowls.  I smiled to myself as Ed carried on talking with them. I thought about how important food is to community.  We talk about it in leadership all the time.  If you want people to listen to each other, to learn and share ideas, give them food.  The bible talks about feeding the hungry often.  Didn’t Jesus feed the 5000 so they would hang out with each other and listen to him preach?  Couldn’t I feed 18 hungry youngsters?

The most famous verse about food rose to my mind, “Jesus took some bread, and gave thanks for it, and broke it apart for them saying, this is like my body, I’m going to be broken, so you don’t have to. Please accept it, and eat…and whenever you come together to break bread, do so in remembrance of me.”  Huh.  My Savior gave up a lot for me, all he’s asking me to do is cook some spaghetti.  In the end, I didn’t think it was my best, but if I hadn’t tried, they would have gone hungry.  And you know they’d be cranky if they didn’t eat!

Sometimes, it's just what they need. And you know people get cranky if they don't eat!

Sometimes, it’s just what they need.

So I actually think, my friends, although some people may be quick to judge and some may not understand where we’re coming from, giving ANY of ourselves, is truly better than giving none at all. Therefore, ladies and gents, the next time you are given an opportunity, I will hope and pray that you will give whatever you can give.  After all, in the hands of Jesus, it may feed many.

Much love ~ Morgen

I’m So Much Better, But Not Yet Great

Christmas TreeHello there friends, Merry Christmas!  I love this season, all the music, decorations, bustle and bells.  But in the midst of all of that…many of us are still dealing with the same challenges, perhaps trying to move them to the back burner while we’re cooking up holiday surprises.  I would love to sit here and wax on about the joys of the season…and I promise I will in my next post!  However, today, this post is for those who are “in it with me”. Who know how hard the journey has been, and that it isn’t over yet.  Whether you are facing a challenge today yourself, or if you are just empathizing with me for my sake, thank you, sincerely, for sharing a moment with me here ❤

This morning, I had an appointment with my GP (general practitioner) doctor for 2 reasons. First, I need his authorization every time I need to see a specialist and I am due for a check in with the OBGYN for the large ovarian cyst that they found during my hospital stay.The second reason was for pain management – which is a nicer way to say I was about out of my pain meds and my gastro refuses to write a script, and keeps kicking me to the GP even though he knows the GP hates to dole out narcotics.

Now, a few things are wrong with this whole situation.  First of all, in the past, when I’ve been hospitalized with my Crohn’s, it’s always taken about 6 months to truly get back on my feet – working, exercise, stable emotionally, and off the pain meds.  We are at an even 5 months since I was released from the hospital, but only 3 weeks off the steroids, (by ditching those, I started eating normally, lost weight, less stress, no more bone damage…but lost energy, and have more pain, it can apparently takes months for the body to re-adjust).  I have started Cimzia, the biologic inject-able which will be a long term maitnence dosage, however that can take 3 months to fully kick in before we can asses if it’s even the right treatment for me.  We are 2 months in.

All of that to say, I’m back to some work and exercise, still not sleeping, and all of these things are made easier with a little oxy. Now, I know it’s addictive, I know people have issues with it, and the fact that I need it still is embarrassing at best, and frustrating at worst.  I have, in the past, always been able to wean myself off without any outside help, but it genuinely takes a long time for my body to rebuild it’s strength.  In this case, I have been sick, in pain, not sleeping, battling my Crohn’s and gut infection out of control for a solid year before I was admitted. That means a year of mal-nutrition, muscle depletion, and un-rest, (we won’t even go into the emotional issues and the over all effect of this on our new marriage), from which my body is trying to recover.

DoctorPillsMy gastroenterologist said that it was “annoying” to take a test every 2 years to get certified to dispense pain meds, so he has sent me to several doctors, and even suggested that I just go to the ER when I needed a refill.  The GP I found to work with is so understanding, and was willing to help me, but was upset at being put in that situation, and I don’t blame him!  Also, he is retiring in 2 weeks, so then what?  He ended up filling the scrips, suggesting an anti-depressant to help me sleep, and wished me luck.

I felt awful sitting there in his office.  I was clearly stuck in the middle of these doctors and the state regulation, and felt bad asking the doctor for anything!  In fact, the hubby still doesn’t like the fact that we’ve had to return to western medicine after trying to use purely natural and holistic methods for the last year. However, I had walked in feeling pretty good about the fact that I had been biking and exercising, and gotten myself down to 1/2 a pill a day vs. the 2 full doses a day I was on when I first went to see him.  But to him, he just saw a young woman who looked like she should be well, and didn’t believe I should have been on anything to begin with…and admits that he knows very little about my disease and nothing about the Cimzia I’m taking. He thinks I should get a new gastro, but it was hard enough to find this one who has a pretty good beside manner, and was willing to work at the level of treatment I needed.  There’s the rub my friends.  I wish I could have just one doctor taking care of me, who can see the whole picture, who understands some of the unique factors in my case and the way I’ve dealt with it over the years.  In fact, as I sat there listening to his frustration with silent tears running down my face, all I could think of was that if only he knew how bad it had been, how many doctors had thrown up thier hands and said they couldn’t help me, and how hard I had worked to get back to “good”, and how I wouldn’t be crying if I hadn’t had to drive my husband to work at 3:30 in the morning because the Army is crazy and neither of us got any sleep last night.

As I walked away from his office with 3 scripts in hand, I pondered how there was no way my husband was going to let me use an anti-depressant after what he’d seen his veteran friends go through.  I also thought about how low it feels to “need” something no one wants to give you, even if they agree you need it.  I thought about how I needed to be at my best to straighten out some work stuff today, and probably wouldn’t be because of the sleep deprivation.  At least I’d have some meds to make me more comfortable right?  Nope!  The pharmacy was “out of stock” and won’t be able to fill them for several days.  Sigh.

Here is the deal – the main reason I feel the need for all this medication is because society isn’t made to let us rest.  I can’t take more time to heal, life is moving on and I need to move on with it or get left behind!  I already feel like I’ve missed so much, even lost some friends, let people down, and been forgotten in my hibernation. I want to wake up!  I want it to be summer in my life again!

So what to do?  I don’t know.  The government has made insurance more messy, so we (doctors, nurses, patients), spend a lot of time making phone calls, filing papers, and making less than necessary appointments to meet requirements and at the end of the day, I’m not really any better off than I started. I just feel a little worse about my situation, and really want to move it to that back burner again.

IMG_20141227_175335To end on a positive note…as frustrating and embarrassing and upsetting as all this is…I don’t want to seem ungrateful – because I’m not!  Just yesterday as I rode my new bike in the sunshine I was counting my many blessings.  Any way you slice it, I am so much stronger than I was this time last year, physically, spiritually, and mentally. God has been so good, and stood by me though it all.  I may not understand Him all the time, but I see His hand in the little things…in the beauty of a blue sky, the loyalty of a little dog, the laughter two people share.  When I see these gifts I know it’s true,

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I’m so un-worthy, yet I am encouraged – may I complete those good works, and be a blessing to this world before I am called home.  May it be true for you as well.

Much love to you today dear friend, and thank you again for being “in it with me”.  ~ Morgen