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  • About ALS

    About ALS

    Unless you've been under a rock for the last few weeks, you've heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

    One of the main criticisms I've heard about the challenge is that people are participating in the challenge - perhaps even donating - but not learning anything about the cause. So I'm here to fix that. Here is what you need to know about ALS:

    ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gherig's Disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the motor neurons. In human speak, it is a disease that weakens the muscles in the body, and it does not get better.

    There is no cure for ALS. People generally live between two and five years after onset of the disease - though rarely, people may live longer, like Stephen Hawking.

    ALS is not contageous, and it typically does not run in families. (ALS that runs in families makes up 2% of all cases)

    One of the most common symptoms of ALS is a progressive weakness in one or more limbs. About 25% of cases are "bulbar onset" ALS, where symptoms include difficulty speaking (including slurred speech), or swallowing.

    While there is no 'easy' way to die, having watched my grandma go through this, I believe that ALS is one of the absolute worst diseases. In almost all cases, your mind remains in tact while your body slowly stops working. One day you can't swallow your food as well. Then your speech is too slurred to be understood. Since you can no longer chew, you have to receive nutrition other ways. Things start to slip from your hands, and your sluggish feet trip over the edges of carpet.

    Eventually, you'll be bedridden because your muscles can no longer support you to stand. As your hand dexterity goes, you won't be able to communicate by paper or keyboard, either. Then, the muscles in your respiratory system will be weakened, and you'll need to be hooked up to a ventilator.

    You are stuck as a prisoner in your body as it deteriorates, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

    As difficult as it is to watch, I cannot imagine what it's like to live it. I would not wish ALS on the worst person in the world.

    I think everyone has their own 'pet causes' at different points in life. Some of us deeply care about diabetes research, clean water, human trafficking, or animal welfare. The hope of people not having to die from ALS is one the causes closest to my heart.

    If you can, and would like to make a donation to the ALS Association, here is a handy link to do so, here.

    Now, whether you feel compelled to dump a bucket of ice water on your head or not, you know what the cause behind the ice bucket challenge is all about. Please spread the information on to anyone you might think needs it.

  • One Foot in Front of the Other

    One Foot in Front of the Other

    I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've taken up running as my new hobby. My great athletic achievements to this point in life have included jumping out of a car because a large mosquito was on my leg, never actually getting over the pommel horse in high school gym class, and tripping up the stairs enough to tear a skirt.

    So for me, running isn't easy. And by this point in the Zombies 5K program, running takes every ounce of my willpower to keep going, every time.

    As much as I want there to be a cheat code that will make this easier, there is none. In order for running to feel easier, I need to carry less weight and to build more muscle.

    So, I need to run more. Oh boy.

    That sounds appealing, doesn't it? In order for something to hurt less and feel better, you have to be okay with pushing through the pain and discomfort in the meantime.

    Why do this? I ask myself. Why put myself through this?

    I admit, sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is that the thought of not finishing the Zombies 5k program is worse than the muscle aches in my legs. I started this, and I am going to finish it because I made that commitment to myself.

    I want to run a 5k with my husband someday. Apparently, I want it badly enough to huff and puff along.

    But there's something else, too. There's the little milestones that pop up at just the right time to refill my energy.

    I am walk/running over two miles at a time now. That's easily over half a mile more than when I started! My walking speed is up .2 mph from where I started. Is that a lot? No. But I'll take it!Also, my 'slow' running speed is up a whopping .7 mph from where I started, and my fastest is .9 mph faster than that starting number. It's still pretty embarrassingly slow when you're talking about running, but I am so pleased I can't even express with that progress!

    Finally, in the last week, I've discovered actual, bonafide muscles in my calves and thighs. Muscles that feel surprisingly solid and tough. I didn't know I could have muscles like that, but now I want more.

    Running, for me, is hard. While it's not good form, all I could do to get through one free form run was look down at my feet and think, "One foot in front of the other" and refused to quit.

     

  • On a serious note

    On a serious note

    I wanted to write something eloquent and compelling. But for once, I can't figure out how.

    If you suspect that you are depressed, please talk to someone. If that person does not take you seriously, that is their problem, and not yours. Find the courage to talk to someone else. Find a doctor, a counselor, who will listen to you and treat you with respect.

    I know how very hard that sounds. Taking that first step is incredibly intimidating. But you are worth it.

    That's right. YOU are worth it.

    The above advice goes for anyone who suspects they may be suffering from depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, or any other mental illness. Get help. It's not all in your head, and you don't need to handle it alone. It's not "your problem" or your burden to carry. Really.

    If you are suicidal, please, talk to someone who can help you.

    Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    Suicide.org

    The suicide.org site has a list of hotlines by state and internationally. You are not a burden. Someone can and will listen to you.

    Mental illness is real. You are not broken, you are not defective, and you are not the problem. Lots of people struggle with it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we just don't talk about it much. You do not have to be ashamed of whatever thoughts you're having.

    Just find someone to talk to. You're worth it.

  • The Writer in her Natural Habitat

    The Writer in her Natural Habitat

    I got new glasses last week. It only took me three years after losing my last pair (which I'd had for about ten years at that point) to get new ones. Oops. They're primarily for computer and reading. I think they look sassy.

    Also, ear buds are totally a necessity when your spouse is in bed and you want to listen to a music. Unless you're someone who likes to keep them up by blaring 80's music through your computer. I'm actually not against that, but I have a feeling I wouldn't like the payback.

  • Changes

    Changes

    So, I'm packing up and moving to Lynchburg, Virginia early next month.

    Phew. Got that out of the way. So how are things going with you?

    Oh...You want some explanation, don't you?

    Well, anyone who knows me too well shouldn't be too stunned about this decision. It's where my parents live, and I've spent the last eight years missing them incredibly. The area is gorgeous, and as a bonus, one of Matt's close friends lives there as well.

    Oh, and their winters resemble living on Hoth 90% less. Major selling point after last year. I'm still traumatized.

    The current plan is for me to move down there, fix us up a place to live, find a job, start a proper photography business, and work on novels. I'm going to have my work cut out for me, which is why Matt is staying put in Michigan until next spring.

    It's intimidating. It feels crazy. It's terrifying.

    But it also feels like the best decision we've ever made.

  • Running for Noobs.

    I've always wanted to run. I don't really know why. My dad was an athletic type in high school, with his running and setting still-standing records for long jump. Hoo boy, I didn't get those genes.

    But still, I have these dreams sometimes where I'm running - granted, usually away from something, and at some point, I realize, wow, I'm running well! Then I wake up, a little bit sad that I can't really run effortlessly down the road, but also relieved that some masked gunman isn't really chasing me.

    I've tried to do those C25K programs before, and the first thing I notice is, wow, these programs are geared towards someone waaaay more in shape than I am. Whether they were or not, they felt impossible, which was discouraging, which ultimately led to me quitting. But I still wanted to run.

    It would be more cinematic if there was some amazing moment where I was led to try it just one more time and discovered that the magic was inside of me all along. No such luck. I found out that there was a 5k training version of the Zombies Run app I've been quietly drooling over for a couple of years, and thought, well, I guess it's worth a shot.

    I'm almost at the end of week 4, and there are some things I'd like to tell you.

    1. Zombies 5k is the running app of my dreams. It integrates my own playlist with story. There are audio queues when to run and when to walk, so I don't have to think. I just listen and do, like a mindless ... heh heh ... zombie.

    2. It's still difficult. :Cough: :Wheeze: :Sputter: Holy mackerel is it difficult. But unlike the other programs I've tried, week 1 was addictive enough and easy enough to where I felt like I could bite off week 2. I've taken longer breaks during "week" 4, mostly because I was having some knee pain ... but I'm keeping with it, and I'm so proud of that!

    3. It's become a full blown hobby, which I really didn't expect. When I started running, I very quickly realized that running in pants wasn't going to happen. My only pair of shorts had bad holes in them, so I had to buy some new shorts. Well, when my shoes needed replacing, I discovered moisture wicking and cushiony socks. Then my calves started tensing up, and the running store said that I needed to hydrate better, and hey, they also have electrolyte tablets. Finally, I got tired of my earbuds falling out of my ears, so I invested in a pair of runners earbuds, which actually lock in place. They don't sound great, but they lock in place, so they are worth 10x their weight in gold.

    I'm having fun running, which I really never expected. That doesn't mean that I don't grumble and part of me doesn't dread how sweaty and tired I'm going to be afterwards. But when I do finish, that sweat and grossness feels like it's own reward.

    Never mind the fact that my running still feels like I'm barely keeping ahead of those shambler zombies. I think I'm doing great.

  • Weddings are nerve wracking

    Weddings are nerve wracking

    This weekend, I had a wedding to photograph. In the days leading up to the event, the weather forecast was doom and gloom.

    Rain. Thunderstorms.

    Nothing anyone wants on their wedding day - especially when their wedding is outdoors! I don't know how the bride and groom felt, but their photographers were biting their nails.

    We actually lucked out. The rain held off, and it was pretty sunny up until halfway through the family portraits after the ceremony. It turned out to be a beautiful day, which I never would have expected based on the forecast.

    But here's a secret: All weddings, indoor, outdoor, for friends or strangers, large or small, extravagant or simple, are nerve-wracking. I will have at least one nightmare in the weeks before a wedding - whether it's dropping my camera on concrete and watching it shatter into thousands of pieces, or waking up at the time I was supposed to leave.

    It is an incredible honor to photograph such an important occasion for people, and I don't take that job lightly. I strive to do my best - even if that means I carry an excessive amount of batteries for my flashes!

    But in a way, I'm actually grateful for every case of pre-wedding jitters. It means that I will be focused. I will check every piece of equipment, I will pack my bags ahead of time, and I will check everything again before I leave. A wedding isn't just a job to me, it's people trusting me with capturing this once-in-a-lifetime day for them.

    If being nervous beforehand means that I will keep a sharp eye out for every way I can capture that wedding, then bring it on.