In light of the recent terrorist events, here’s my road to home defense…

More than a decade ago, I took a gun safety class. The retired police officer who taught it told us to not own a gun unless we were willing to shoot to kill in self-defense.

His first reasoning was that a criminal would not hesitate to use your own gun against you. He also reasoned that a nonfatal wound (such as in the kneecap) would just enrage a drug abuser looking to fund his or her next high. Between the rage and the perp’s ability to power through the pain, I would be at a great disadvantage standing there cloaked in my love and empathy for humanity.

You see, all the stars aligned in my life, as a nurse, a mother, and a Christian, to make me a card-carrying, flag-waving bleeding heart. I believe there is good in everyone and that every life matters. For this very reason, I did not purchase a gun at that time.

As a single mom, my children’s safety is entirely in my hands. As you may already have gleaned from my prior writing, I am alone but not alone in my life. Even when it comes to safety, I have my angels.

Although we live in a large rural county, we are blessed to be only a few miles from the local PA State Police Barracks. My brother-in-law, Tim, also has had my back more times than I can remember. Since he and his brother farm the property next to and across from my own, he’s in a unique position to keep tabs on us and our property and he’ll text me if something’s up.

But, in the recent past, I’ve had a few disturbing incidents. One morning as I was leaving for work, there was a dry spot next to my car in the driveway despite it having rained all night. Since I live in a rural area and my house is far from the beaten path, this was very disconcerting but I brushed it off because nothing was disturbed as far as I could tell. Another time I saw a car parked on our logging path but figured it was a hunter who had ignored the No Trespassing sign. I checked to make sure the sign was still up but by the time I got down to the logging path, the car was gone.

I talked to a friend whose husband is a local cop and he recommended that I get serious about security because of being alone and in a rural setting. He also recommended that I get a gun and a concealed carry permit. Because I had 4 young kids at home (one of whom is very curious and impulsive), I decided against purchasing a gun until I had done a lot of research on gun safety.

And then there was the final straw.

One night I dreamt of elephants surrounding my house and when I woke up, my doorknob (on a door that had just been installed 2 weeks prior) was mangled up and dangling off and there were dig marks in the door jamb. At first I thought that a bear had tried to get in but since the trash outside was undisturbed, I couldn’t deny the fact that someone had tried to get into my house.

In my house. With my kids in it.

Suddenly, the momma bear overwhelmed the bleeding heart in me. I realized I would do anything to protect my children. Thus began my foray into gun ownership. My first stop was Up in Arms Shooting Supplies. The awesome guys there tolerated my million questions and answered some I never even thought to ask. I bought a revolver, bullets and a gun safe.

I shook the entire way home. The first time I shot it, my brother-in-law Tim was nice enough to stay with me which was great because I was still shaking. Because of my interest in concealed carry, the guys at Up in Arms also recommended The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry by Massad Ayoob. This book was life-changing. I read it from cover to cover and had to take notes. One day I hope to take his classes.  I did eventually apply and get approved for a concealed carry permit.

The management of the purchase took on a lot more importance in our household where several of my children have PTSD and anxiety. Most of my time and energy went into planning purchase and use and security of the gun and gun safe, so that it would be easily accessible in emergency but not so easily accessible to curious kids.

Because I still have a curious and impulsive son who struggles with perseverating behavior, I practice shooting and clean the gun while he’s not around. In fact, the purchase was such a nonevent to him that it hasn’t become a point of fixation. My daughters are split as to whether they are interested in shooting or not.

Instead of focusing on gun ownership as the be-all and the end-all of our home security plan, it became just one more component. I researched home security and assessed our weaknesses. Each of our doorknobs was replaced with one with a higher security rating. I installed a surveillance camera with plans for expanding this system. I still have improvements to make but the biggest hurdle has already been crossed…my own sense of false security.  In light of the increased frequency, randomness, and unpredictability of recent terrorist events, personal and home defense has moved to the top of to do list.

The revolver ended up being a great first gun, easy to use and easy to care for. And once I was able to relax, I realized how much I really enjoy target shooting. I’ve even planned my next gun purchase. I still pray that I’ll never have to take a life in defense of my family or myself but I know that I’ll handle my gun safely and confidently if I ever need to use it.

How do you feel about guns in your house? Please feel free to share. As you can see, opinions can vary even within one person’s lifetime so there will be no judgment here.

Angels among us

In Fall of 2008, when I was 38, I went back to college. I didn’t want to just to further my education…I wanted to change the course of my entire life.

After my brush with Lyme arthritis, I realized that I could not physically work forever as a bedside nurse. When I reassessed what I really wanted to be doing, I came up with a huge list. Apparently while I was busy raising a family and working a job, I had neglected my dreams.

Since nursing is such a specialized field, I set out to get a non-nursing bachelor’s degree first. This degree was tailored to what I perceived as my weaknesses and interests. (Given my age and situation, I consider it a pretty tame midlife-crisis but, now that I face the student loans, I realize that it probably would have been cheaper to buy a sports car.)

When I started, I was a single mom with children aged 4, 5, 5, 6, 15, and 19. It was very difficult at first because my little ones did not understand timed tests, the need to focus when formulating a response, and pretty much privacy, in general.

One night, with a deadline looming, children pestering, and quitting on my mind, I got a call from my friend, Joanna. She was passing through and wanted to stop by. I cried on the phone to her and she came anyway (a mark of a true friend). That night, she made us tea, sent me to my computer, and stood watch over me.

Whenever my kids needed to ask me something, get a drink of water, or just randomly stare at me, she was there, gently filling the need and guiding them back to their beds while I finished and submitted my homework with just minutes to spare. Three years after I started college, Joanna was killed in a car accident so she never got to see the fruits of her labor at my graduation.

But whenever I felt that the weight of my life was too much and I wanted to quit, God sent another one of my earthly angels to encourage me. My coworkers, friends, and family, many without even knowing it, provided me with the encouragement and strength to keep going. My one sister, Janee, pestered me constantly (as only sisters can) over staying on task and finishing my degree ( I had to take a third semester of French more than 20 years after taking the first 2 semesters and it was almost my undoing).

Over the course of time, I was able to stick to it and finish my degree and move on to pursuing an MBA. My goals for myself became more defined and I did eventually leave nursing. I learned a lot going to college this second time around but the greatest thing I learned was that I may be single but I am not alone…my God is near and my life is overflowing with angels and all the better for it. So, thank you to all of my angels and congratulations on our graduation!

My Dalliance with Lyme disease

In February of 2008, I got sick, really sick. On and off for 24 hours, I was feverish and had debilitating joint pain. I attributed it to the fact that I had shoveled my entire driveway the day before in order to get a furniture delivery. For those who are unaware, my driveway is a 400 foot long hill. In the winter, my kids sled on my tire tracks like the Olympic bobsled team.

It was one of those times when I realized that I was not quite as young or spry as I used to be. I shoveled downhill (because I am both lazy and sane). And when I reached the bottom, I found myself humming “The old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be.” In victory, I walked back up and happily awaited my fabulous new living room furniture. My happiness was short-lived when I started feeling tired that night.

By the next day, I was ensconced in a blanket on my new couch. I could barely get up because the pain was so bad. At the time, my kids were 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 and 19. Unfortunately, my 19 year old was away at college. It was frustrating that I couldn’t even open a Ziploc bag with my claw-like hands. Thankfully, it only lasted 24 hours. The bad part was that when it was over, I had arthritis for 5 months.

I saw my primary care provider who ordered a slew of tests, including ANA titer and Lyme antibody. My blood work was amazing (which always stuns my medical providers because I’m fat, lol). But the arthritis persisted. As a nurse, I had access to many medical professionals who I peppered with questions. Their closest guess was Lyme disease, although one doctor who originated from Venezuela mentioned seeing post-viral arthritis. After 5 months, I woke up one day and the arthritis was gone. Life went on.

Then in January of 2009, I had the same thing happen. At that point I realized that as long as I had a fever, the joint pain was gone. I stopped taking Ibuprofen and survived the day. It seemed odd that this had happened again and yet none of my kids got sick so I mentioned this to my primary care provider, was diagnosed with a sinus infection, and went on my not-so merry way.

Still, no one could account for the return of the arthritis. Shortly after that, I was at work when I felt one side of my face start to droop. I had to wait for relief to take care of my patient and by the time I got checked out in the ER, the Bell ’s palsy had mostly resolved. I remember the ER doctor saying that it never comes back after it resolves, so the next day I headed down in my rattling old farm pickup (my SUV was out of commission) to visit friends a few hours away.

The Bell ’s palsy did, indeed, return with a vengeance. My friend, Pat, a natural remedy fan made me some licorice root tea for the trip and put it in a pint canning jar. It was a sweet gesture and a well-known treatment for Bell ’s palsy but I don’t think she grasped the hilarity of the situation. Here I was in my beat-up farm truck with a droopy face, slurred speech, and a canning jar of what looked like moonshine.

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“Granny” and her homemade moonshine

Feeling a bit like a Beverly Hillbilly I headed north, arriving home without any run-ins with the PO-lice.  After being referred to a neurologist, I had a ton of tests done including an MRI. My neurologist called me when the lab results came in and referred me to a Lyme specialist out of the area.

Interestingly, the infectious disease docs in my area were still denying that Lyme was this far north in PA. When I told one about the Bell’s Palsy later, he just said that I was probably one of the few true Lyme cases. I endured 3 months of antibiotics and more antibiotics because the symptoms persisted.

In the meantime, I had been doing tons of research on my own. I had plenty of time since I couldn’t work while my face was flaccid. (Imagine having to blink your own eye while in isolation or a sterile procedure…not cool) By the end of three months, I had been on a bunch of antibiotics with no sign of relief of Lyme symptoms but my Bell ’s palsy was resolving slowly! I took vitamin B-12 as methylcobalamin and licorice root tea. I also did physical therapy (And boy, did I look goofy doing that! Think Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady…AAAAyyy).

After 3 months of antibiotics, my gut was a mess and I wasn’t any better off. I asked my Lyme doctor if I could try some natural routes before doing more antibiotics. I consulted Mary Theresa at Jurnack’s Naturally who recommended Silver Shield (a physician-formulated colloidal silver from Nature’s Sunshine). Within 1 week, my symptoms started to abate. Within 2 weeks, I was feeling great except for the arthritis which still plagues me to this day.

Unfortunately, I was still having a recurrence of symptoms every time I had an adrenaline rush (a frequent event as an ICU nurse). About 30 minutes after an adrenaline rush, I’d get fever, chills, and fatigue. The first time it occurred, I went to the ER. Because it was during a period of Avian Flu panic, they even swabbed me for that. Once again, I went to Jurnack’s Naturally for advice. This time, Mary Theresa explained about stress and the adrenal gland and recommended Chinese Stress Relief formula. It worked like a charm.

Over time, I have added Magnesium Complex for muscle cramping related to arthritis (with the added benefit of it taking away my acid reflux), vitamin D because my level is chronically low, and zinc and Chinese Stress Relief at times. I have slowly been changing to a better balanced organic or natural diet. It has been a hard change since I have a large family and organic isn’t cheap. I have also found other means for dealing with leftover symptoms, such as the elliptical for arthritis pain relief.

Even now 7 years later, I still struggle with some of the side effects of Lyme but I’ve learned how to cope and live with it. I’m sharing this, not because my way is the only way, but because I hope that somehow this might improve the life of someone somewhere!

You are cordially invited to my pity party. Feel free to bring your own whine or wine.

I was cleaning out and organizing the files on my hard drive when I found this gem that I wrote a few years ago.  I write to vent since murder is against the law and I don’t look good in orange.

Got up early so I could do some paperwork. Emma decided to get up too. Did miscellaneous housework the elves forgot to do overnight. The kids were practically howling at the moon during breakfast. Got them on the bus without killing them or myself. Took Jeffrey, (yet another stray cat) to the vet. Clawed me and my new purse. Tried to drop said cat off at home but he wouldn’t get out of the car.

Took measurements for the door trim that Danny destroyed. Went to Lowe’s. Spent 2 hours ordering flooring for the kitchen, dining room, and living room, luckily I remembered the trim before I left. Couldn’t pay with my debit card because I had put a cap on it to prevent theft and I don’t have checks on that account. Feverishly ran from bank to bank to transfer money. Realized it was 2PM and I hadn’t eaten yet so I ate in the Walmart parking lot. I know…I’m classy like that. Stopped at Walmart for a few things.

In every aisle, I was behind a person who was leaning on their cart and slowly shuffling down the center of the aisle. After two light years, I grabbed my stuff and got in the checkout lane with the chattiest clerk and customers. Listened to a discussion of the merits of each can of dog food, beans, seasoned diced tomatoes and bagged cat food. Said customer also left the line during check out to “grab a few other things.”

I.hate.Walmart. Literally ran to my car. It was not a pretty sight. Ran into Aldi to get a few more boxes because 4 large boxes weren’t enough to hold the books I culled from my overburdened bookshelf. Felt like a thief because I took the empty boxes without buying anything. Really??? That Catholic upbringing still has me feeling guilty for everything?

Mailed package at Post Office. Flew home to get the kids. Unloaded the car and started dinner. Started having pity party because my kids need so much help with each part of their homework. Became drill sergeant extraordinaire since unoccupied kids decided to be mini hurricanes throughout the house. More homework. Took dinner to my parents. Had to listen to the details of the socks my dad wanted me to order him…read word for word from the cardboard insert that I was taking home with me.

Was feeling very crabby because I had hoped to finally sit down with my kids for a dinner together now that basketball season is finally over. Finally had to cut my dad short while feeling like the worst.daughter.ever. Moving into full fledged pity party. Had family dinner with hormonal preteens. Oh. joy. Next thing on the bucket list…a lobotomy. Finished homework finally. Kept having to send kids back to really do the clean up. All the while, I fielded calls and texts from half of my family members and everyone that I called earlier in the week while playing referee between my kids.

Joyous occasion culminated in Day 10 of friendship bread with 3 witchy preteens assisting. Had major freak-out over bad attitudes, bossiness and my exhaustion. Let’s hear it for friendship bread building the ties that bind. Heard stupid song “Everything is awesome” Refrained from punching the wall. Threw a spoon in the sink instead. Put friendship bread in oven and sent everyone to bed…

I should have gone to work today instead.

Things to do away with in 2015

In keeping with New Year’s tradition, I’d like to offer my own ideas of what 2015 would be better off without.

Online reviews: Since companies started suing for poor reviews, the online review system is not worth the paper it’s, well, not printed on.  Instead, I’m just going to put something like this: I cannot afford to honestly review this company.

Celebrity Bare-alls: What is the deal with celebrities flashing us? Do they really think that their bodies warrant sharing? Seriously, if your acting or vocal skills are not up to par, just go home.

The Race Card: I’m so tired of self-serving media hogs claiming that race plays a part in every white/black interaction. The violent protests and targeting of law enforcement personnel take away from the true message of equality. People are misjudged every day based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion but they’re also judged (positively and negatively) on the way they talk, how their bodies look, where they live, what they drive or don’t drive and a whole lot more. In the immortal words of The Youngbloods, “Come on people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together try to love one another right now.” And don’t forget that despite our legal system being flawed, it’s the best we can do since it’s designed and run by all of us who are equally flawed (a common characteristic, I might add, despite our skin color).

Republican and Democrat cat-fights: I’m so tired of both parties holding up progress in a grown-up version of a temper tantrum. It’s time for politicians, as a whole, to put the long-term interests of the country ahead of the short-term election-grabbing gains. Perhaps the problem is that we the people are no longer governing the country. Stop trying to have it your way all of the time or I’ll be tempted to head to Washington and put you all in time-out!

TXTing SHRTCTS: It is my firm belief that our grammatically challenged youth should stick with whole language until it is mastered. There’s really no need anyway since they text at the speed of light. PLS STP U R DRVNG ME CRZY.

Welcome to my crazy life!

Welcome to my New Year’s Resolution! Despite the fact that this is, in fact, being written on January 5th, I created my blog and website on the 1st. This is important because it highlights a great weakness (or strength, depending on how you look at it) of mine. I am not a risk taker. I needed to define my own desires for this project and then do beaucoup research. I also read blogs and blogs about blogs and blogs about bloggers who are blogging.

This blog originally started as a way to share my thoughts and experiences with my children and grandchildren. It was driven by fear…a fear of not being able to tell them later. You see, my mother has dementia. Since much of my self-worth has historically been derived from my intelligence, a decline in my mental capabilities seemed worse than a death sentence. I have since come to terms with the fact that dementia may or may not be a part of my future. The difference now is that I don’t plan on sitting around worrying about it.

So, here I go! Thanks for joining me on this journey!