Friday, November 14, 2014

Plan B is for blessings

Today is a "milestone" birthday for me...35.

My parents' 35th birthday is one I remember well. They decided to have a big party at our machine shed. We roasted a pig, there were kegs, I think they rented port-a-pottys (memory's getting fuzzy at this age), family and friends drove hours, and later after we kids were tucked in bed - the adults took a hayride that has lived in infamy and will go down in Orient legend.
...and I was in 6th grade. When my parents were my age, they had an almost 12-year old, and an 8 year old.

Yesterday, I asked my students this question during roll call: "What do you hope to have achieved by the time you are 35?" To a 20, 21, or even 22-year-old this seems light years away. The answers predominantly were be married or have a family. Some were 'have a job where I am far enough away from family, but can still visit them;' 'be successful enough that I can own my apartment in NYC;' 'own a house;' 'have started building my own house.'

If I thought of my own list at that age, it would have been hauntingly similar: be married and be a mom.

...and yet, here I sit at 35 and I have 'accomplished' only one of those 2 things.
...and yet, here I sit at 35, and I have accomplished far more things than that 20-year-old could have even imagined.
...and yet, here I sit and my arms feel empty, as though something is missing.

So, as I drove into work this morning listening to my "Meditation podcast" on the Laudate app, meditating on this morning's Scripture, the recurring theme I heard was "open my eyes."

And, I asked God to open my eyes to the blessings.

This is what I saw: the sun rising upon the Tucson mountains as I drove east; the clouds swirling around the peaks of the Catalinas as I drove north; the mountains cradling this city, which has become my home and place of a blessing to me.

I saw my phone with "happy birthday" messages from my mom, my mother-in-love, a friend from the past 25 years, and a friend I met through Dan five years ago.

As I walked, into my office, I saw this:

I thought, "I am so blessed to work with people who care about me." Then, I saw my 'Jessica' sign, and I thought, "I am so blessed to have worked with students who cared about me and recognized the value of my life in theirs - that they made me this amazing sign and threw me a going away party, 4 years ago."

...and my heart felt full.

Then, I saw Facebook messages from friends from all aspects of my life: from Orient, high school,  4-H, ISU, TRIO & MAEOPP colleagues, Cornerstone, Dan's friends that have become mine, my former students, my current students/alumni, Dan's students, Dan's family, my family, my soon-to-be family.

...and 20-year-old Jessica could never have imagined how blessed she could be at age 35.

She never could have conceptualized that sometimes you don't get your expectations - you get far, far more.

35-year-old Jessica has gained wisdom. 35-year-old Jessica has gained perspective. 35-year-old Jessica is grateful for each of those people who has taken a few moments to remember and celebrate her birthday. As I "like" each post, I whisper a thank you to each person and a special blessing for you in this year.

The blessings in life are those unexpected graces; the things you couldn't have planned on.

If you think my arms are empty, you should see my heart. It's overflowing with blessing and grace.

Friday, October 31, 2014

As the World Turns: recap of the past week

What have we been up to lately? Let's break it down by revealing all the dirty secrets stored up on my iPhone....

On Saturday, I led some communication and teamwork workshops for Sigma Alpha, the professional agricultural sorority. Shout out to my sistas! (I'm a proud Alum from the ISU Delta chapter) [right? aren't we the Delta chapter?] :)

I had such a fun time working with these young women and helping them process the experience and discover the importance of each member and how to encourage active participation among all involved. I look forward to working with them in the future.

On the way there, I did a dumb thing. I thought I was running late (I wasn't really).
I was driving east on a street where a parking garage is located right near the Student Union. All was well. Until I realized that I cannot enter the garage from my lane. I thought, "Ugh. I don't want to drive all the way to the Union to drive the circle and come back; that will make me late." I looked up and noticed a No U-Turn sign and reasoned that must only be when students are present because on this narrow street, congested with student foot traffic that would be dangerous.
So, I did a U-Turn, slammed the curb and came back down. As I drove toward the entrance, I noticed my car moving less efficiently. I hobbled into the parking garage and thought, "UM...I think I popped my tire." (I have never driven with a flat tire, so I wasn't quite sure what it felt like.)

Sure enough, it was popped.
So, I did the most logical thing and I took a picture and sent it to Dan (who was in Texas at the National Block & Bridle Convention) - and asked him to take care of it.
My amazing husband came to my rescue and called roadside assistance, the tire place and took care of all the details. God wonderfully provided a student at the retreat who wasn't in SA, is a current student of Dan's, and was able to be the go-between for me, Dan, and the tow-truck driver. I was so grateful to know I could just concentrate on the students I was with and everything would be fine!

Fall has come to our house! Above is our mantle. (Sorry I couldn't rotate it.) Below is the grapevine wreath I made with 2 garlands - one of fall berries and one of bronze, green, and gold sparklies. The wreath hangs in our carport on the brick which used to be covered with ivy (and then it was covered with dead ivy).

On Monday night, we carved pumpkins. We actually had 3... On the third, I was going to draw out the Wildcat face. Dan decided to do a Spartan rather than wait for me to draw it out...the Spartan did not turn out. So, then, he was going to carve the state of Michigan...and it ended up being a circle.
Oh well...we got lots of seeds to roast from the endeavor - which is the best part!
One thing I love about Dan is that he takes the initiative to scoop the guts AND roast the seeds. One of my TSFL clients is really into Halloween and posted the other day that the trick to great pumpkin seeds is boiling them first. So - we tried it and Dan is a fan!
Boil seeds for 12 minutes. Rinse in cool water. Toss with seasonings. We went with "Chex-mix Seeds" - tossed in Worcestshire sauce and Lawry's seasoning salt. Roast for 30(?) minutes at 350; let cool in oven.
Delish - and yes, I've been limiting my snacks of them...I could devour the whole bag if I wanted to - but I'm not.

Last but not least: Go out and VOTE on Tuesday!
If you live in Adair County, remember to VOTE ROHRIG!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

As I was reflecting and writing this letter to the editor (found here) about the lessons I have learned from my dad, I became overwhelmed with emotion.

The notion that people - individuals - have the power to change their life is a foundational truth that I have built my life around. I have chosen my major, my career path, and my husband based on this idea. The belief that people working together can change their communities guides my leadership principles and practices. I long to engage with others to bring about change - and I believe that working together changes will result.

Until reflecting on the lessons observed from my dad, I hadn't realized just how deeply my parents' lives and choices played a role in my development. ...and I almost started crying in the parking garage because I was so grateful.

After I wrote the letter, I was still feeling that deep gratitude of humility. At times like that, I often begin to ask, "Why me, God? Why did I get such great parents?" I think of the lessons gleaned from the lives of my parents and grandparents as my inheritance. Their character, habits and choices have shaped mine.

...and then, as I began to ponder "Why me?" It hit me.

This is not about me.

This is actually the inheritance that God intends for all. I stand upon the shoulders of those who've come before me, and those who came before them - because this is the inheritance of the elect. To walk with God, to be faithful to the call to be his friend - this is the commandment with a reward. Deuteronomy 7:9 - "He is the faithful God keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."

My inheritance is not a special blessing upon me - rather, it is what God intends for all. His intention in sending Jesus to show us how to love, to live, to interact with the Father - was to bring about His kingdom on earth. When we have marriages and families and lives that are faithful, we bring about His kingdom on earth. Then, we pass along the inheritance of the saints to our children and our children's children.

May it be so.
Colossians 1:11-12

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Transformation Tuesday

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know that last week I hit a milestone.

At official tally last Monday, I hit my goal weight right on the nose. After 19 weeks on the program, I lost 44.4 pounds and 43 inches. Those numbers astound me. It doesn't really seem possible. Especially when it hasn't been that hard! The program is so simple and easy to fit into our lives - but the way it has transformed my thinking over time is just incredible.

I am not the same person that I was at the end of May. In May, I was exhausted, frustrated, and powerless. I was exhausted because I wasn't fueling my body correctly (but had no energy to change) and I wasn't managing my stress well. I was frustrated because I thought I knew how to appropriately fuel my body and was doing that - and instead of losing weight, just kept gaining. The combination of exhaustion and frustration left me feeling defeated. I felt like no matter what I did, I could not change: in short, powerless.

I am SO thankful that my mom suggested that I try this program. I was skeptical that a program could work because nothing was working! I've done lots of programs in my life and have given up before reaching goal. She was right that this could be the one thing to turn things around for me.

I am SO thankful that Dan agreed to do this with me. We have both been able to make changes to our habits and see results. We have cheered each other on and kept each other focused on our priorities. He helped me get to goal.

I am SO thankful that this program paired me up with a free, personal health coach. Without Marie, I would have given up. I would have called it "good enough" about 7 pounds ago when my size 12s were all fitting, albeit loosely for some. I wouldn't have seen it through to completion. She kept me focused on what I wanted to create in my life - not just what I was trying to lose/undo. She taught me how to focus on my health and not just on the scale.

What I have learned most about weight loss through this journey is that what really matters (besides a good, safe, effective, and healthy program) is commitment. If there is no commitment to change, there will be no change. If you are already planning to cheat, you are sabotaging yourself. If you aren't willing to tell your friends or family that you are making healthier choices, then you aren't owning your choice to become healthier. You are letting others dictate your life choices. You may see success, but it won't be lifelong.

I had a rough month of September. I lost a total of 6 pounds. I thought I'd be at my goal by the end of the month, and instead I was 5 pounds away. I was really disappointed. I had become fixated on just reaching a number because deep-down, I just wanted to be done. I wanted to BE THERE already. I was fixated on a destination - not on a lifestyle.

What changed for me was that week's "Healthy Habit": breaking the yo-yo cycle. The image used to illustrate the yo-yo cycle and consumption with a particular number on a scale (or size of pants) is a rocking chair. As soon as you reach that goal - if you haven't determined that the changes you are making are for life, you will start to rock back up again. It may happen slowly, but it will happen.

However, if you focus on making those changes for life, you are emulating more of a racecar on a track. Your goal is just one stop along the way. When you reach goal (or near it), you set a new health goal to work toward.

This really helped me evaluate my attitude. I had wanted to be done; I had wanted to reach goal without having added a bunch of exercise. But, when I heard that, I realized my heart was in the wrong place. I wanted long-term health - not simply to tap the sign and then creep back up again. So, I am now running again - a few times a week. Is my goal to work toward a 5K? Sure. Really, my goal is to simply be healthy and be active. In addition to running, I do morning yoga - and still plan to do longer yoga sessions at night a couple of times. I walk during lunches when I can. I try to stand more and sit less. Choosing health doesn't have to be grand gestures.

If you want to lose weight and choose health - or know of someone who does, please let me know. I would love to help them.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reppin' for Rohrig

For those of you not in Adair County, my dad, Brian Rohrig is running for Supervisor to represent Orient and southeastern Adair County. Many of you know that I consider my dad to be very influential in my development personally and spiritually. He is my life advisor. :) This post is the letter that was published in the Adair County Free Press this past Wednesday.

Recently, a friend asked me, “If you could choose to live in a small town or a big city – which would you choose?”  

Without hesitating, I said, “At this point in my life, a small town.” She was surprised given that I currently live in a large city. However, I could answer so confidently because of the lessons that I have learned from my dad, Brian Rohrig.

After completing his degree at Iowa State, Dad returned to our family farm in Orient. My parents believed so strongly in the value of higher education that even during the farm crisis of the 80s, as young farmers – they invested in college funds for each of us. The foresight and sacrifice of my parents, along with grants and scholarships, allowed me to graduate college debt-free.

However, it wasn’t enough for my dad that his kids could go to college. Working with the members of the Orient Men’s Club, he helped establish a scholarship program for other Orient graduates to pursue higher education.  Many O-M grads have benefited.

Dad’s belief in educating students in Orient motivated his service on the Orient-Macksburg School Board from 2006-13. As an O-M graduate, I am thankful for the opportunities and education afforded me. However, as small schools began consolidating and creating county-wide schools, I became skeptical that O-M could survive. My dad, on the other hand, was not. He ran for the School Board because he recognized the importance of the school to our community. His commitment to Orient was impressed upon me as result.

My dad demonstrated to me the importance of community involvement. Beyond his years of service to the Men’s Club, he also has served in nearly every leadership role and committee imaginable at the Orient United Methodist Church over the last 30 years.  His service extends beyond the Orient community to the county: Pork Producers, Farm Bureau, Corn & Soybean Association, and Gideons. He has served in leadership roles and on several state committees. He taught me that community service was not something you fit in to your schedule IF you have time; it is simply a necessary part of being a member of a community: you make time for it.

Early on, my dad showed me the value of integrity – doing what is right even when no one else is. In the early 1980s, my dad decided to start no-till farming, even when everyone else was still tilling their land. He did so because he recognized the value of preserving the soil. He understood that being a good steward for the future meant enduring some criticism and skeptics in the short-term.

As renewable energy became a buzzword, Dad noticed opportunities for growth. He initiated a partnership between the Adair Co. Corn and Soybean Association and Honda Motor Co. LTD for cellulosic ethanol research. As wind energy swept the land, my dad, acting with a group of others, decided to invest. Putting in hours of grant-writing and planning, they developed an opportunity for investors across the county to capitalize on our abundant wind resource. Where many wind-farms profit energy companies, Adair County has 8 jointly owned wind turbines that benefit our communities.

As I think upon these lessons, I realize that the #1 lesson that my dad has taught me is this: people have the power to change their lives. People working together have the power to change their communities.  These two beliefs guide my life – and they are why I encourage you to vote for Brian Rohrig as an Adair County Supervisor on November 4.

Jessica (Rohrig) Kiesling

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I live for the applause-plause

Last Friday, at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Honors Convocation, I was honored with the A+ Advisor Award. This award is sponsored by the Alpha Zeta Honorary Fraternity, of which I was a member as an undergraduate at Iowa State. With this particular award, students select the advisor - by voting for their favorite advisor in the College.

Knowing that I received this award because of my students makes this very special. I am just so honored that they took the time out of their schedules to vote for me. It is just so humbling. I am just so honored and grateful.

So, to my students: THANK YOU for recognizing the effort that I put in to make your experience at Arizona better; THANK YOU for being you. I do work with some really wonderful students!

...and now, for your viewing pleasure - pictures from last well as, a couple of ways that students surprised me this past week!

A student stopped by the office on Thursday with this for me. There was a bake sale on the first floor of our building. When she saw two cupcakes, she decided to buy one for herself and one for me. I was so touched that she thought of me! Sometimes students really surprise me in the most wonderful ways.
[and for those of you following my health journey - no I did not eat this; I shared the joy with another.]

...and this showed up last week, too. So much thoughtfulness! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jess the Seam Ripper

This weekend I took on the largest challenge I have ever confronted in the sewing room. A dress. With pleats. Darts. Interfacing on the collar & armpits. Zipper. My first attempt to sew from a real pattern (not someone's blog) since high school.


Of course, the victory came at the expense of a few yards of thread. The d*mn bobbin just wouldn't thread right! I also ripped out quite a few seams as I experimented and figured out what I was doing.

Yes, I was following a pattern. But, the pattern was a bit confusing, at times. I had my trusty iPhone at my side to look up unfamiliar terms like "stay stitching" and "understitching," as well as to watch videos about how to sew a dart, and read a play-by-play tutorial about sewing in a zipper.

This is the first time I've sewn a major project without my mom by my side to turn to for questions. ...and, I'd do it again. :) I actually learned so much about sewing - and myself - through this project, that I would not have if I had my mom to turn to every time I had a question. I wouldn't have sought out the answer; I wouldn't have tried; realized the problem; ripped out a seam; started over. I would have been harder on myself - expecting perfection rather than just seeking to learn.

The biggest lesson that I learned was this: "perfection is the enemy of good." I could easily obsess over tiny details - making sure everything lined up just right...and lose sight of the importance of just sewing. If it was screwed up so badly, well, I could rip out the seam. But, most of the time, it wasn't. One of the major 'issues' I came across is hardly noticeable in the final project. Moral of the story? Sometimes, you just need to sew - and keep pressing forward.

There is some back-story on this dress. (When isn't there a back story when I'm involved?) I set out to make this dress last March - for Easter. Then, I ran out of weekends, and then I got sick. At the end of May, I thought I'd give the dress a shot. Then, I took my measurements...and then I got sick. (figuratively, this time) I was shocked at what my actual measurements were - and that none of them matched anything on the pattern. When I bought that pattern, I thought that my measurements would match up. Nope. A big, fat NOPE.

Now, however, after losing 35+ inches (and pounds) since then, my measurements DID match up! I was a little cautious because I wanted to make sure everything would fit; I probably could have increased a seam allowance, or even gone to the next size down - but, I would rather have it fit (and be able to groove in it) than not.

So, VOILA! My first dress made all by myself!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Loneliness of the Unknown

Can I tell you about the AWESOME class that I had today?  As it is September 11th, I started by watching a video of footage from 9/11/01 set to "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?" by Andrew Jackson. Then, I asked students to share not 'where they were,' but rather, "How has your life/the world been effected by September 11th?"

The answers were...wonderful. These students, now juniors and seniors in college, were grade schoolers in 2001. Imagine being a 7-10 year old and realizing something awful had happened, and seeing the heartbreak in your parents' lives - but not understanding. Some of my students lived in New York and New Jersey and had friends that lost parents. Some of my students have parents in the military who have since served multiple deployments. One was completely sheltered from the reality of the events. One recognizes that the effects of 9/11 may be that he will be drafted.

It was such a touching experience to share with them as they process what these events mean to them now, and how they have experienced life. Many mentioned that they felt their innocence shattered. One mentioned that because all she's known is a heightened sense of awareness that she is almost apathetic toward what happens around the world.

Several others talked about anxiety and fear that surrounds them any time they wait to board a plan or go through security at an airport. That statement made me wonder...if we think about our youth, they are much more anxious than youth of the past. I believe that we've seen an increase in anxiety disorders...and I wonder if there is a correlation.

It was interesting to share my experience with them because when the attacks happened, I was their age - in their seats. I was a 21-year-old facing my senior of college - and all the unknowns that come with it. One of my preceptors had said that it would be really interesting to experience 9/11 on a college campus - surrounded by all those people.

Yet, what I remember is feeling so alone. Yes, there were a lot of people around; yes, there were vigils; yes, there were prayer meetings. But...I felt alone. There was so much unknown in the first few hours - and the idea that something terrible had happened, that the world had just crashed - yet, here we were - living, breathing, experiencing a sunny September day - seemed so out of place.

My sense of security is my family; yet they felt so far away. My friends had no more answers than I. In that feeling of such loneliness, I spent the afternoon praying and doing a Bible study entitled "Becoming a Woman of Purpose." I think that response helped me handle the unknown, the loneliness, and the anxiety that would follow being an emerging adult in a situation entirely foreign and full of trepidation...with a sense of purpose. It certainly wasn't easy, but I felt like I had an anchor in spite of tumultuous waves.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Developing Your Mission Statement

Earlier this summer, I led my colleagues through a reflection on the past semester, and imagining the one to come.

Before we began, I had my colleagues read this article by Greg McKeown: 

I was really challenged by Mr. McKeown's emphasis on all the things we do in life to be busy, thinking that busyness will fulfill us. Yet, we move farther and farther away from the things that breathe life into our work - and thus, us. If doing [working] is a human right, shouldn't we find more of ourselves in that act?

In particular, Mr. McKeown defined the word priority. It meant ONE. ONE thing or action. WE have made the word plural - and in the process, have probably made more trouble for ourselves. How do we find focus or meaning in the doing - if all of our doing is running around after 5-10 different things?

In my work, I have 2 particular titles. In the 2013-14 academic year, I had even more responsibilities that extended beyond my 2 distinct titles. ...and I was exhausted. I couldn't find the singular purpose, the unifying thread - I just felt at the mercy of so many others pulling on my various strings.

Until our activity. I asked my colleagues to reflect on the following:
1) What do you love about your job?
2) What are the best things you do (in your job)?
3) How do you feel about the past semester?
4) What are your feelings about the upcoming semester?
5)  What one thing do you want to do, which could create a more fulfilling work life?
6) What is the priority for your position?

As a result of our activity, I was able to focus on the one priority for my positions - and it is below.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Furtive Friday

I chose the title because the lesson that I am ruminating today just snuck up on me. I wasn't expecting it, it just was there in the middle of my morning drive musings. Plus, I like alliteration, so, Furtive Friday it is.

I was musing on this morning's Gospel lesson. I'll admit this particular passage has always been a bit of a boggler for me. I can assent to the information, but as far as really "getting it" - no go. I have always left this one thinking that I could open up my arms and touch it - but the actual truth was like a giant balloon filling up a house, and I could only touch a small portion, but never get my arms around it. It was just filling up more and more - ready to burst the seams.

Gospel Luke 5:33-39

The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.”
And he also told them a parable.
“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
As the lesson was read, and thoughts drifted to my life - and the lives of my friends. The lesson, for me, centered on the desires of my heart - of my life. This week, it seems there were some babies born, and there were a lot friends' babes starting new adventures at school, many for the first time. And, I have longed for that season to start in my life. (just like I longed for the season of marriage to start in my life, a few moons ago)
I really struggle with covetous comparisons. I want a different life; I want to be a mom. But, to take my friends' lives or struggles and try to put that onto my own - would mirror exactly what Jesus talks about here. It would be Ludacris. (Blogger keeps changing the spelling to be the rapper's name.)
It does not match. To take on theirs would cause the wine to spill - or completely ruin the garment.  I cannot take on my friends' experiences or lives; I can only take on mine. Our lives are seasons, and some are longer than others; some changes are subtle - like moving from Arizona summer to Arizona fall. Some are sudden and dramatic - like a Halloween ice storm ushering in an early winter. But, they all come in due time for each of us. When it is time to embrace the new skin, the old will fade - and the new will come.
I am reminded of these to verses: "God makes everything beautiful in its time;" and "Behold, I am making all things new."
Amen. Let it be so.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Rainbows

A couple weeks ago, I had a pretty awful Thursday. It felt like an R. In the academic world, Thursdays are abbreviated to "R" on class schedules [confounding many a freshman]. That Thursday was a double R - rejection thuRsday. It was one of those days where I was ready to throw in the towel on...everything.

Isn't that how it goes? When one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong? When it rains, it pours - as the idiom goes?

Friday morning, I got up; got on my knees and asked God for some encouragement. Something - a little glimmer of hope - to keep on, keepin' on.

One glimmer of hope: this message from the homily at church: When things seem darkest, wait 3 days - and prepare to be amazed.

The second:

As we were driving home, we drove through rain. But, the sun was shining - and I knew, that a rainbow must be forming. ...and then, I caught a glimpse of it over by the mountains. ...and then, it became a clear, full rainbow (sorry, I don't have a panorama function) - with the slightest hint of the double beyond.

My first reminder was of God's faithfulness. The second thought was this: Without rain, we cannot have a rainbow.

Rainy days can get us down (unless you live in the desert)...but rain is necessary to bring about life. We will experience trials, rejection, strife, suffering and pain. But these, too, can bring life. These circumstances do not have to be absent of hope, if we lean into them, allow ourselves to be taught through them, healed through them (in some cases)...and in that life can spring forth. Hope can arise. Healing can come. A greater glory can be achieved.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Motivational Monday: HOPE

The first 7 months of 2014 have officially come to a close - and we are quickly closing month 8.
Is your life where you hoped it would be? Did you “work your plan” from your resolutions?

Currently, our life is beyond where I would have hoped that we would be in 2014. I really could not have imagined what has taken place in our lives in the last three months. …and these changes have filled me with HOPE.

Do you ever feel like hope is lacking in your life? Like, you should feel hopeful about the future – but you don’t?

That’s where I was for the first 5 months of the year. I didn’t feel that way all of the time; but, in the deep recesses of my heart – there was this lurking question: Is this it? Is this the best? Am I really living the life that I was called to?

After getting sick in April [and no, no leads on what caused it] [for those new to the blog – you can check this out here], I went to see my accupuncturist [yes, I’ve become a hippie]. I told her about getting sick, trying to not make it a big deal (which is what I do), and she said, “So, are you under a lot of stress?”
…and I thought, “umm…I guess?”

Then, I started looking at my life and my work and how I really felt – and the answer was YES. I didn’t really feel like myself anymore. I didn’t feel this way because I felt powerless to effect any good change in my life. I felt locked in to the current circumstances. I felt that anything I tried to do to make my life healthier didn’t pan out. Discouragement will quickly dry up hope.

To be discouraged, to be without hope – without enthusiasm or sunshine – well, that just wasn’t me. While it seems my E/I and J/P are flexible, there is no doubt that my Myers-Briggs letters are NF. NFs live in the possibility of what can be: we live in hope. So, when an NF is without hope, life is dark.

A month ago, while walking down my hallway at work, it suddenly hit me: my life is full of hope again.  Losing weight – and gaining health – is about so much more than a scale, or measurements, or the size of my clothes. Those tangible things are exciting. Those tangibles are measurements of success and very important to keep pressing forward. But, the greatest gift that I have gained by joining this program is hope.

What is more: I am starting the semester today with renewed joy and enthusiasm! I am excited for the year ahead - not exhausted! This is a much different place than I have been the last few semesters.

What is greatest, though, is that now, as a health coach, I can share the gift of hope with others! THAT fills me with just as much as hope (joy and excitement) as my own success! When I look back to 4 months ago, I am amazed at how different my life is – and how much healthier I feel. I am so thankful that my mom encouraged me to do this program. I am so thankful. I know that we are doing good for us, and are making decisions with life in the focus.

There are four months left in 2014. That’s enough time to start making those changes you want to see in your life!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Colorado Trip Recap

For our summer vacation, we took a trip to Colorado the first week of August!

We went to Colorado because Dan was judging the Sheep and Goat Shows at the Logan County Fair. Prior to the Fair, we visited the Colorado Springs Urgent Care (sinus infection), Manitou Springs Cliff Dwelling (go to the real thing: Mesa Verde - or I hear we have a few in Arizona); Rocky Mountain National Park.

This was our first time to Rocky Mountain National Park. We loved it! We would love to go back with either/both of our families and spend some time in Estes Park to spend a few days (not a few hours) there. At the Park/on the way there, we saw a herd of elk, 4 bull elk, 3 big horn sheep, 1 gopher (?) sprawled out on the road...and a dead baby skunk.

Besides RMNP, my favorite part was being in Sterling/drive back to CO-SP. Why? ...prairie.
I just love the prairie. I had forgotten what rural farm towns smell like on a summer night after a rain. I love the rolling hills and the yellow-green grass spotted with farmhouses and fields. It felt like "home."
[Oh yeah - and we got to see our friend Megan and meet her mom & kids! Dan & Megan were in grad school together; Megan had been the Extension Agent in Sterling for 5 years and was the reason we came to Colorado! That was such a treat! Miss them!]

Time for some pictures:

Outtakes trying to get the "perfect" couple shot

The views around 12,000 feet - it's a tundra!

Senior picture time! :)
 After the Fair, we headed back to Colorado Springs. We visited the Air Force Academy and Garden of the Gods before boarding the plane home.

Storm rollin' into Colo Sp!

Air Force chapel and grounds

Thursday, August 14, 2014


My friend Paige used the above phrase in her post today, as she is settling into her normal life after an awesome vacation. THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL!  (and I am so passionate about it that I used all caps!)

The thing is school starts on August 25, which means after today, I have 6 work days to be ready for the onslaught. And like, 1 of those days is just devoted to an all-day training, so I have really only FIVE work days to get ready. ...and all I wanna-do-is-zooma-zoom-zoom-anda-boom-boom!

...and by that I mean: I just want to read Harry Potter and dream about being at the Iowa State Fair and eating Pork-Chops-On-A-Stick...and be anywhere but my chair, staring at a computer screen.



Find my motivation and send it to me.
Or at least a good Pandora station that will make me want to shake my rump. into action.

For sticking around: here's some fun insight into Dan & Jessica conversations:
Walking on our way to our buildings this morning:

Dan (talking about essays he had written in high school): Sometimes, I would use Garth Brooks quotes in my essays for tests. Like in 'American Experience,' which was a combination English/American History/social studies class, when we writing about Black History Month -
Jessica (interrupting): You quoted, "We Shall Be Free."
Dan: Yeah. and it was awesome. I knew it would get me points.
Jessica: You know, I would have used it because I believed it.

There you have it: Dan, the pragmatist. Jessica, the idealist.
For what it's worth.....

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pinterest-worthy House Tour

So, about 2.5 months ago I posted on Facebook that I love hosting college girls at our house because they love how "Pinterest-worthy" our house is. Yes, it is definitely pin-spired, which makes it especially pinteresting. My friends immediately commented that they wanted pictures. ...and I have never provided them.

Last week, we hosted our Core Group from Marriage Encounter. With the house all cleaned up, I decided I should take some pictures. I am not showing you the entire house...I've got to keep some suspense up.

Here is our "formal" living room.

Next up - the guest room. (and sorry about the angle)

Master bedroom!
Again - sorry about the angle. My dad "built" this for us when they were visiting in May. It's a pallet, sprayed with a clear coat, and hooks added.

Eventually that "Love" quilt will be hanging on the left side of the bed/headboard. 
This was the mantle at Easter.

...and finally the Pool:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Transformation Tuesday: Weight Loss Journey

I have been on and off diets for 23 years – and I’m only 34. I’ve tried Weight Watchers, Herbalife, South Beach, LA Weight Loss – modifications of all…with success. But, as you can see, fall into the same cycle of loss and gain. A few years ago, I lost about 20 pounds, and maintained it pretty well for about 2.5 years – and then, I got married. J

In 3 years of marriage, I gained about 25 pounds.  In the past year, I had so little energy when I would get home at night; I was exhausted from sitting all day. I felt hopeless. I felt like I was a special case – exempt from being able to lose weight. It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried in those 3 years! One of my co-workers often said, “Jessica, you eat healthier than I do!” [which only made it more frustrating] I tried working out 2-3 times/week…but, still, the weight piled on.

Frustrated, I poured out my heart to my mom when they were visiting in mid-May. She suggested the program that she & my dad had great success with a couple of years ago. I was skeptical – after all, my body wouldn’t lose weight! But, I was also willing to check it out because something had to change – and fast!

On June 9, I started the program. My goal is to lose 40 pounds. After 5 weeks on program, I have lost 17 pounds and 19 inches – which means I am over 40% of the way there! [typical weight loss is 2-5 pounds/week] Most surprising, my energy has rebounded. I have energy consistently throughout the day and at night. One of the best aspects of this program is that I work with a personal health coach to encourage and support me along the journey - and beyond.
Results vary. Clients can expect to lose 2-5 lbs the first 2 weeks, and 1-2 lbs each week thereafter.
After two weeks on program, I decided that I want to help others achieve optimum health and freedom from the scale.  So, I am now a health coach! (and Dan is my first client – and yes, he entered willingly). [Dan has lost 11 pounds in 4 weeks.] I realize that weight loss is the first step – not the only step. I am really excited for what the future holds for our family as we work daily to be healthy and thrive, not just survive.

If you are interested in hearing more, please comment below and leave your email address so that I can contact you. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Parable of the Sower - Like I'd Never Heard It Before

The Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13:1-23, is one of those parables I've heard so many times that I think I know what it means. Yesterday at Mass, Fr. Jacek Buda opened my eyes to a new understanding of this parable, in one of those 'light bulb moments' that shed so much light, you wonder at the new images before your eyes.

First, the parable:
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

It's widely understood that the soil is us. Father Jacek asked us, "What is the seed?" Then, he described a time when he and several other Dominican preachers were discussing this passage, and attempting to answer this very question.

My answer: Faith.

Their answers:; good;

The key, he said, was the mysteries of the Kingdom; what is the mystery of the Kingdom?
God's Love. [Now as I read Jesus' explanation to his disciples, I see "the word." Who is the Word? Jesus. ...and what does He represent? God's Love.] How do we know it's God's Love: because this parable describes a response to an action. Any action of love requisites a response.

The casting of the seed - describes the nature of God's Love. "A sower went out to sow;" God went out to love, and He cast His love everywhere, for all people - but people reacted differently. How did the people react to the love?
1) The path: those who take the love for granted - and thus, throw it away
2) The rocky soil: those who respond with great enthusiasm, but never were transformed, and thus never made a commitment (roots)
3) The thorns: those who respond out of duty - and thus, miss out on the joy
4) The fertile soil: those who respond in love - who give their whole self as a response to the gift of love. For that is what love is: a response by giving your total self to the other.

Love leads to life.  This is the crux of Catholic teaching; thus, it makes sense that the seed is love - and that an act of love would bear fruit - life.

In our Marriage Encounter Core meeting, Father Charlie presented us with another application:
Love listens. 

I could ask the question, "How do you love?" And we might say, "Oh, pretty good. Not perfect, but not that bad." Because "love" is very subjective (in 301, it's a "Level 4" word). But, how do we listen? How do we respond to others?

This is far easier to answer...and far more convicting. Am I listening for the problem? Am I listening to respond? Am I listening to defend? ...what would it look like to listen out of love? What would it look like to listen with love? Am I listening to my beloved?

Those who have ears, let them hear.

NOW: go read my friend's post and see if you can catch the connection between these 2 topics. Only love can grow exponentially and reap a harvest of 30-60-100 times greater than what was planted.

Mind. BLOWN.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Three Years In

Let's get this out right away: Marriage is, hands-down, the hardest thing I have ever done.

Do people tell you this before you get married?  Maybe. But I think it's either 1) sugar-coated as "marriage makes you holy" or 2) we're too "drunk in love" to acknowledge those people are telling us the truth and instead think, "Um, obviously don't love your spouse like I love this guy, because that's just not going to be our story."

Without deeper inspection, I wouldn't think marriage has made me holier. I think marriage has brought out my angry, selfish, control-freak side. If I was comparing my life as a single person to now, I think I'd say I was holier then. But, that would mean I was less aware of the afore-mentioned side. I thought I was doin' all right - and now was being rewarded with marriage. But, if holier means more aware of my sins, faults, and short-comings, then, yes: the last 3 years have achieved this. And, if this awareness causes me to recognize my need for the Lord's grace, mercy and saving power - then, yes, perhaps the refining fire of marriage is making me holier.

It seems that many people on their anniversary say things like, "here's to another 365 days of bliss!" My reaction is often, "Really?" Let's be honest, after getting married and moving 2000 miles from my beloved family & friends: I need some realness about marriage. Maybe others learn this lesson quickly; while dating, or engaged perhaps. ...or maybe nobody wants to talk about it. ...or maybe not every person who gets married endures the amount of stressors in such a short period of time. [and maybe each couple hits their stressors at different points/seasons of life]

Three-and-a-half years ago, when Dan and I got engaged, a co-worker told me that I was taking on, like, 5 of 10 the most-stressful life events all at once. I blew her off - because with God at my side - stress is nothing! In hindsight, yes, those stressful life events took a toll on me. Moving so far away changed me; becoming Catholic changed me; marriage has changed me. ...and while it hasn't been all sunshine & roses (though, a lot of it has been sunshine - we live in Arizona, after all) - this opportunity to leave, to cling, to learn, to become aware of myself & my "self under stress" - well, it is for the better.

How do I know? Because I know that my God promises that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). And, I know that I was called into a sacramental marriage by Him who established a covenant relationship with me. So, the stress that we have endured in the last 3 years (and heck, the last 6 weeks!) will only make us better - for each other, and for our purposes and good works.

Before I close, let me give a huge, loving shout-out to my husband. He didn't know "Jessica under stress" when we got married; and, he has been the best. He loves me well because he makes me stop taking myself so seriously. He makes me laugh when I want to be mad - or sad. He just loves; and, I just am so humbled by his love for me. Dan is the best for me. And, all of those stressors from the last 3 years really have only made our bond of friendship and love stronger.

May God bless us as we continue our journey toward Him, with Him, in Him, through Him.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thursday's thoughts - patience, action & bearing fruit

I was raised in a particular way that may seem peculiar to some. From the time I was in high school, I have had it drilled into my conscience to not - under any circumstances - pray for patience.
(ok, maybe it was college - either way, I've lived this truth for about 15 years)

Why? After all, isn't patience a fruit of the spirit - and shouldn't we want to cultivate the fruits of the spirit?

Well, you see the root of the word 'patience' - is Greek for "long suffering." Do you actually want to suffer a long time? Probably not.

When I said that this was drilled into me - even last week, in the midst of my suffering (which seemed long; I know, I have no patience!), in a text message my mom said, "If you are praying for patience, STOP!" Does she know me so little? Does she think the Catholics have so thoroughly brainwashed me that I'd forgotten this?

I bring this up because of a conversation with one of my students yesterday.

She came in with questions - and, I think she feels a little insecure about having her questions. She said something like, "I'm sorry that I come in with questions so much; you're probably really tired of me." (I'm not at all; she's a great student.) I laughed and said something like, "No! I get to practice being compassionate and merciful - those are good things." I pray to be merciful and compassionate toward my students. Believe me, I get plenty of opportunities in a day to exercise this.

She said, "Oh, is that like praying for patience?" [Then, of course, I told her about how we shouldn't pray for patience - but in situations where I need to exercise patience, I ask for perspective, insight, wisdom, understanding, mercy, grace, or compassion - the spiritual elements necessary in order to persevere and endure suffering.]

...this got me thinking.

Patience - mercy - understanding - love - kindness - joy...the fruits of the spirit - are actions not feelings. I think often people feel that they need to be more patient with others, and they don't feel patient, and so they pray for patience. Well, praying for patience simply means that you are going to be given opportunities to exercise patience.

It's not reciprocal - if you feel patient, then you will act patient - which means that then you are patient. Praying for patience is asking for the opportunity to exercise patience. You cannot becoming patient by feeling patient; you become patient by exercising patience.

So, dear friends, remember that when we pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be evident in our lives: we are asking for opportunities to exercise this. In order to exercise this, remember to also ask for the gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3) to empower you to act, and therefore, exhibit the fruits.

Which reminds me...when I feel that I am not loving enough, or respectful enough toward Dan...I need to let go of the need to feel that I am loved - and just act as though it were true (because it is) - and act lovingly.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

To Worship in Spirit and Truth


The first time I had chicken pox, I was in third grade – and I was excited. In mid-December, an outbreak occurred on our bus – and my best friend, Jina Lilly, got the pox. I was excited; I hadn’t yet had the pox – and I wanted it. You know, because then I wouldn’t ever get them again. (Insert irony)

I got my wish. I got the pox right before Christmas break. At first, I was glad – you know, because I got what I wanted. …and then, the reality of illness set in. I had to miss my Christmas concert at school, the Christmas party…and, as the days wore on, I realized that I was going to have to miss Christmas Eve service. As my mom recalls, I was heartbroken.

Fast-forward twenty-five years (crazy, right?) and my second bout with the pox. During the week, I didn’t really think it was going to be this long. I figured that by the weekend, the pox would be dried up and be on the mend. I was feeling more energetic by Friday. And, it’s Holy Week, right? So, if God is healing my body, He’ll have me healed so I can take part in Holy Week, right?

…and, then, yesterday, a tiny new outbreak, just a few bumps. …but enough to indicate that I am still contagious. I might feel better, but who knows who has come to worship this weekend alongside me with an immune system at-risk?

The reality of having to “sit out” the most sorrowful,, solemn, and joyous services – well, they have left me heartbroken, again.

You see, friends, since September, I have been walking alongside a young lady, who desires to be Catholic. It has been such a blessing. I can’t even begin to recount to you the pure joy that I have had in becoming friends with Michaela, and the ways that God has made us similar, and the lessons that He has taught me this year. I have been so blessed.

And, the pinnacle was last night: Michaela received her first Communion and Confirmation at Easter Vigil, with two others, who have become dear to me.

When I saw those little pox, my heart sunk. When my aunt confirmed that I should stay home, I cried. …for like twenty minutes.

This morning, when those little pox were bigger, I realized that I would need to stay home this morning, too. As my husband and parents-in-law got ready to leave, I started crying. I sent my mom a text saying, “You raised me right; I have to stay home from church – and I’m crying about it.”

She wrote me back saying how much she wished that I could be at church, too. …and then I realized that if I am heartbroken about not worshipping with my brothers and sisters – about not being able to share in this Easter joy with my community…how much more does God want this for me? For you? For US? He made US for community – and He wants US to celebrate together; to worship in Spirit and in Truth – together. As one Body. Isn’t this what he prayed for, with tears, and loud cries, and anguished soul – right before He offered Himself up for US on that cross?

I pray not only for them (his disciples), but also for those who will believe in me through their word (US), so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.

John 17: 20 – 26

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, let us sing. Let us sing, Alleluia, together – for our King has come, and He has risen…. And, we have a Living Hope.

Enjoy a little “throwback” – I Can Only Imagine, by MercyMe. This brought me to tears today. Smile

The Body of Christ…broken for me


When I went to the doctor last week, I really had no intention of sharing what I was going through with anyone beyond my parents, in-laws, and co-workers. I didn’t really think it was necessary to share that my body had broken out in welts and pox.

And, then, my dad posted a call for prayer on facebook for my healing.

And, then, I saw the number of “likes” (I’d call them “agreements” to pray), and comments, and personal messages to me…and I realized that I needed that reassurance – that I needed the Body of Christ.

And, through the Body of Christ: my friends, my family, my students, my parents’ friends – people I’ve never met, praying for me – you all showed me Christ. In caring for me, you showed me the care of Jesus. By desiring my healing, you remind me that Jesus desires my healing…and more than that, He desires me. He cares for me, and loves me – and has provided for me in sickness and in health. And, He often does that through us – His body.

My lesson from this experience is this: do not underestimate the power that a little kindness has. Do not underestimate the power of prayer – of the effect that it has upon another to know that you have taken the time to lift them up to the Father. I think that I had, honestly, grown a little callous. I have been challenged to cry out more to God and for others – and to notice. To stop, when I see the request for prayer, to stop the scrolling, and lift this friend to the Lord. To stop, and turn toward my Jesus.

There’s nothing like a sickness to make one stop, and rest, and listen. There’s nothing like a sickness to make one realize just how precious life – and all the little moments – and all the little things taken for granted – is. This Lent, I had recognized that the one thing that I needed to let go of, to give up – was my self. I can’t really rid myself of myself…but, I can put others above me. Thank you, friends, for showing me the way…the way of Christ; the way to Christ.

Easter blessings to all of you.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What a long, strange week it's been...

If you're friends with me on Facebook (which most of you are, I imagine), then you have already been made aware of the 'drama' within my life this past week.

Last Thursday evening, I noticed a couple of "bug bites" on my left leg. One, near my knee, was rather swollen. I think I only noticed it because I had bumped it, and it hurt. On Friday, my mother-in-law and I went and had manicures and pedicures. During the pedicure, I noticed another 'bug bite' - because the girl kept bumping it. It was right above my right ankle. After that, I noticed several other bites.

The one by left knee kept swelling. By the end of the day, it was rather painful - and hot. I tried icing it. I sent a text to my ever-wise, aunt Barbara (a nurse practitioner) for some advice. She advised that I take some Benadryl - and if it got worse, to contact her in the morning.

Saturday morning, it wasn't any better. In fact, there were more and many others started swelling. ...and then, I noticed some bumps on my arms. Yes, a trip to see my aunt Barbara was in order. Thankfully, she only lives a couple miles away.

She hooked me up with non-expired Benadryl, and instructed me to take some ibuprofen to help the swelling. She believed that I had 'erythema nodosum' - and possibly Valley Fever. She said that if they got worse, I should see my doctor on Monday as soon as possible.

Well, it got worse. I was taking ibuprofen and benadryl every 4 hours. On Monday morning, I wanted to rip my arms off. The bumps that were on my arms seemed to merge into little mega cells. The small red welts on my legs seemed to merge into large, hot, red masses. I knew I was going to see my doctor; I had to. Although, I planned that I would go to work. Dan instructed me to stay home. (So thankful for him; most of the time, I need to be told what to do.)

At 8am, I started calling my doctor every 15 minutes. I didn't realize the office didn't open until 9.... At 8:43, I said, "God, please, let them call me." At 8:45, the receptionist tell me that there weren't any open appointments, but I could be seen at 9 on Tuesday. I told her that I had to be seen that day; everything was getting worse. She said that she would consult my doctor to see if she'd be willing to be double-booked. At that point, I began pleading with God for her to be willing to see me. At 9:05 I called back to see if she would be; she was.

About 10:20, I went back to see her. Immediately, she looked at my arms and said, "You have the chicken pox!" I said, "How? I had the chicken pox. I don't have the chicken pox...." She said, "Those, baby girl, are chicken pox."

Then, she looked at my legs. Rather than see what my aunt saw, she felt my hot legs and said, "This looks like lupus." I tried explaining that I thought it was Valley Fever, not lupus. She called in the other doctor who confirmed her suspicions about it being related to an auto-immune disorder. And, then, I went back to have blood drawn.

My left leg on Monday morning.

My right leg on Monday; if you zoom in, you can see the red areas on my knee and shin.

At this point, my doctor went into the waiting room and asked if anyone there had not had chicken pox. The one person who hadn't? My mother-in-law.... I think she must have some type of natural immunity, though, as all 4 of her kids had chicken pox, and she never got it from them.

I was informed that I would not be going into work for the week.

Which was good, because I didn't feel like doing much of anything until Thursday. ...and even then, I took at least one nap that day.

For the first couple of days, I would feel like ripping my arms off at least twice a day. I was taking Benadryl & ibuprofen like clockwork. Tuesday evening, I finally started taking the anti-viral med (another ridiculous story for another time).

On Thursday, the red welts on my legs and faded to to bruises, which is typical of erythema nodosum.
Left leg on Thursday

Right leg on Thursday
Right arm - Thursday

Left arm Thursday

On Thursday night, I received a message from my cousin, Valerie, a physician assistant, who said, "I do not think what you have Lupus." She and I have been in contact discussing my symptoms - and then my blood work when it came back yesterday (I don't meet with my doctor until Monday).

I cannot tell you all how THANKFUL I am for my aunt Barbara and cousin Valerie; they have helped explain my test results and provide feedback and direction. I do not have an auto-immune disorder; my labs indicate a rather healthy individual. As for the next steps to discover what might have caused this...well, we shall see on Monday.

I thought I was completely on the mend until this morning. I woke up with tiny little bumps circling a drying bump on my thumb, and little guys on my ring finger. Oy. Come on, body! Don't you understand that it's been a week? It's time to get healthy! :)

Legs - Saturday, 4/19

Damn you, baby spots!

Left arm - 4/19

Right arm - 4/19