Why do I write? PFAM carnival

Sharon at Bed, Body, and Beyond is hosting the PFAM (Patients for a Moment) blog carnival this go round, and she asked, why do we write?  The carnival will be posted on December 7th, be sure to go by there and find out why other’s write, and what they write about.

Drawing Hands by M.C. Escher

I’m an artist, not a professional writer, I never really considered writing anything that was meant for others to read.  I kept a journal, off and on, for years.  Now and then, I still find little books with partially filled pages buried deep in a box, little segments of my life, meant for no one’s eyes but mine.

The first thing I wrote that was intended for other’s to hear (or read) was a poem I wrote the day my mother died.  This became the largest part of her eulogy.  A poem I still cherish to this day, it’s not professional, it’s not prize worthy, but it comes from my heart, and it helped me get through the first few hours of saying goodbye to my mom.

Memories of Mom and Me

I look around me and all I see,
brings back memories of mom and me.
The clouds in the sky; for hours we’d look,
picking out colors and shapes and books.
Oh, look there’s a snap bug – remember him?
a play thing for me and mom again
.A sea shell reminds me of a walk on the beach;
my diploma, a goal, she believed I could reach.
Let’s go to a movie – her favorite E. T.
then go to the park and swing with me.
An ice cream cone, a frog, a snake,
a Thanksgiving dinner we attempted to make.
All the things around me I see,
bring back memories of mom and me.
The people who loved her, I see in their eyes,
the love that she gave them was no surprise.
She had a heart as big as the world
and the soul of a little girl.
People who knew her will never forget,
because she affected everyone she met.
Reminders of my mom are easy to see,
for there are parts of her inside of me.

After that day, I filled many more journals with not just accounts of the day, but prose.  Still, only for my eyes, or to be shared by a very select few.

For years I’ve had health problems..too many to mention.  I wrote about this – privately.  Then a few years ago I found out I couldn’t eat gluten.  It appeared that this little ingredient in so many foods was one of the things making me sick.  I started learning a whole new way to eat, to cook, to shop, to talk to wait staff…ect.  I started a little blog to help me keep up with recipes, places I’d eaten, products I tried, all of my experiences being gluten-free.  At first it was private, I only wrote for my information.  Then I noticed other gluten-free blogs and thought others could benefit from the things I was learning…and that started me on a road to writing publicly.

My gluten-free blog was pretty popular, but I started having other health issues, and even found out I had another food intolerance.  Not only did I feel that the gluten-free blog no longer fulfilled what I needed, I didn’t think I could put as much time and effort into it.  So that blog had to change.

I started having more issues with Meniere’s Disease.  However, it wasn’t ruling my life…yet.  So I decided I wanted to start a blog about getting healthier.  Yes, I was going to take a year to focus on my health and fix things.  My body had other ideas, so 365 Days to a Healthier Me, changed to Picnic with Ants.

With this blog, I have thrived.  I started writing this blog to tell my story, living with chronic illnesses.  To get it all out before I exploded.  Then I found others who understood what I was going through.  I found support, and friendship, things I never expected to find, simply by writing about my life with all its struggles, dreams, hopes, milestones….

I found myself opening up and telling the nitty-gritty honest description of my emotions, and my diseases.  What my Meniere’s attacks are really like, how it feels to find that your husband is now your caregiver, how losing your hearing changes your life, how having chronic pelvic and hip pain affects your sex life, what it means to be bi-polar and (mostly) stable….I write about my life, and how I strive to live it to the fullest, with chronic illnesses.

I tell everything, in detail, not just to get it out, and find support or give support, I use it to explain to those who have no idea what we go through.  I have become an advocate for myself and for others with chronic issues.  I’m even considering writing a book detailing different people’s experiences living with an invisible illness.

There are many things I can no longer do because of my illnesses, one of the things I can do is write. Therefore, to put it very simply,
I write because I can!

Oh, What a Day!

by Wendy Holcombe (created on Photoshop)

Today was absolutely beautiful, and I woke up without a headache…(meaning a little bit of a headache, like normal, but no where near like I’ve been having lately…yes, I always have a headache, sometimes it’s just much, much worse than other days.)

The weather was gorgeous, in the low 70’s (F), with a slight breeze.  The leaves are starting to fall off the trees.  I took my lunch out on the back porch and enjoyed the sun and warmth.  There was a gust of wind and a flurry of leaves blew over head, it reminded me of a scene from Winnie the Pooh’s Blustery Day, however, my day was not that blustery.  I had a giggle.

We decided since I was having such a good day, we would go somewhere.  We went to the little mall near our place, and bought Stuart 2 new ties for him to wear to interviews.  They are a bit bold, and show more of his personality.  I think they show confidence!  I hope the people he interviews with also thinks so.  (today was Stuart’s last day of work, just a couple of hours really, turned in his computer and told them where he left off.  The owner said he felt so bad, but he had realized if they had one bad month they would be in trouble.  They have decided to put the project Stuart was working on, on hold…so no reason for Stuart to be there.  Stuart is so great about it.  I think it’s the Buddhist in him, I’m not as philosophical…but I’m trying.)

Today, we didn’t think too much about that!  We walked the mall, window shopping.  Then we needed to go by Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of things, yes, I don’t really like shopping at Wal-Mart either but it’s 1 mile from our house, so convenience sometimes wins.  Unfortunately, I really used up most my energy in the mall, and shouldn’t have gone to Wal-Mart.  We stayed there much longer than I should have.  By the time I got home, things were spinning a bit, especially if I moved my head too fast.  I bent down to feel the dog, and the world when Whoosh!  I’ve been lying down since then.

I had a great day!  Lived it to the fullest.  (yes, going to the store is living it up for me.)  However, I really need to learn where my cut off point is.  I push myself beyond my limit way too often.  If I feel good, I take advantage of it.  Hopefully, I won’t be paying for it tomorrow.

Right now, my hip hurts, my back hurts, my tail bone hurts, my head is starting to hurt (worse), and I’m very off-balance.  Think I over did it?  Yeah, me too.

So how do you learn what’s enough?  Often I don’t feel that tired, or hurt that much, until I stop.  Do you know what your limits are?

With the holidays coming up, I really need to figure this out.  Right now, I’m thinking, we won’t be going to any parties.  We may try to have a few people over to our house  We think it would be better in my controlled environment, I can go lie down if I need to.  Or I can get away from noise if I need to.

Thanks for any advice.

Think I’ll be posting more about how to handle the holidays soon.


image courtesy of sodahead.com

This post is for the Chronic Babe Blog Carnival all about Gratitude.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.  Everyone here knows the people I’m grateful for…my dear blogging friends, the friends who have stuck by me…and most of all my precious husband.

I could write an entire blog post on how grateful I am to my husband for all he does, but I think I gush about him enough.

One of the biggest things I’m grateful for is this blog!  Picnic with Ants…gives me a place to get out my emotions, to know I’m not alone, to work out problems, to make other’s aware of what my Ant’s are…especially Meniere’s Disease.  When I started this blog I was fighting my illnesses tooth and nail.  Thanks to my friends on here, I’ve learned to accept them as a part of me.  No they don’t define me, but they are a part of me, and I will learn to walk with them.  That in no way means I’ve given up, it simply means I accept this time in my life.

This is a safe place for me.  A place where I can be myself, and if people don’t like it they don’t have to read it, however, I’ve very grateful for those of you who do.

At times I realize I’m grateful to be in this place I am right now.  In a way, yes, I’m grateful for this disease, we call Meniere’s…and my list of other conditions.

I have learned so much during my struggles with chronic illnesses.  I’ve always been a compassionate person, but I think I’m more compassionate.

I notice things I didn’t really see before.  I’m grateful to my doctors who are trying everything to give me some relief.  To the staff at Duke for all the things they do that I don’t even see.  I’m grateful for the orderly who was so kind to me while wheeling me to the recovery room, and stopped by later just to make sure I was alright.  I’m grateful to the guy at my grocery store who knows I’m hearing impaired and will make sure he looks straight at me when he talks and enunciates his words so I can read his lips if I can’t hear what he’s saying.  I’m grateful for the technology that is available today,my computer, my hearing aid…and possibly in the future a cochlear implant.  All different technologies, but all help me communicate so much better than I could without them.

I’m also grateful

  • I can still appreciate the seasons
  • I can still read and escape in a book.
  • I can research doctors, illnesses, treatments…just think a few years ago we couldn’t do that as easily as we can now.
  • I have doctors who don’t mind questions I have, are thrilled that I’ve researched my condition, and who genuinely care.
  • I have health insurance…and that bothers me, it just shouldn’t matter…but it does.
  • that things continue to change.  One day I may be very depressed and blue, but the next day I may see the sun and find the clouds that were so thick over my head are clearing.
  • For my dog and cat…especially my dog.  She has been with me for 18 years, she’s now 19.  A year and 4 months ago we were told she had a very aggressive form of bladder cancer, they couldn’t operate, and she would last at most another year, probably much less.  She doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  I guess no one told her she was sick.  : )
There is so much in my life I could whine and bitch about…and I do from time to time (more times than I want to admit), but there is so much I’m grateful for…much more than I could list here.
Thanks to Chronic Babe for making me think about all the things I’m grateful for.

It’s the Little Things.

I created this the night after my bad attack. (W. Holcombe all rights reserved)

It’s the little things that make me happy right now.  I felt so proud of myself today.

I spent the entire day out of bed.  I even got my meals for myself…well, all except breakfast, Stuart was making that for me when I got up.

The meals I got for myself were just left overs, but I did it!

I walked by myself, and cleaned myself up…all by myself.  (yes, these are things I haven’t been able to do without help.)

I filled 5 pages in my sketch pad today.

My internal clock is still way out of whack.  I can’t seem to get to sleep before 3 or 4am. …and then don’t get up until about noon.  If I try to get up earlier so I can go to bed earlier, it just doesn’t work.  Either, I feel like crap all day, and risk having an attack because I didn’t get enough sleep.  Or, I still can’t get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.  Ugh.  Guess I’ll talk to my doc about it next time.  I hate taking something to help me sleep, but perhaps I could take something for a little while to get my clock back on schedule.

I hope I have more days like today, and continue to feel better.  It’s been a rough road lately….but I’m making my way down it.

I feel so guilty.  I’ve told so many people about the success I was having after having my CSF leaks fixed.  I know of a few people who sought out the treatment because of me.  I’m not saying that I’ve given up, or that I think things won’t get better.  But right now I’m not sure, and I’m just afraid I made it seem too easy.  I think I’ve always let everyone know this is an experimental treatment.  However, it was working so well for me.  I was normal again.  I just want for all of us who have that feeling…being normal.   Did I give people false hope?

Even if this treatment ends up not working for me, I have always said, I hope they will learn something from this, and can help others.

Once again, I feel at a loss for the right words to express how I’m feeling.

I’m full of guilt, fear, and anger, yet…I’m still full of hope, and feel like I’ve found a part of me that has been missing for a long time.

I hope you guys understand.

A Pretty Good Day

Our Damage From Irene : )

I thought everyone would appreciate that the only damage we received from Irene, was that our wild flowers are now on the ground.   I must say, these flowers have grown completely out of control.  I just planted a bunch of mixed wild flower seeds in this area, they were supposed to range in height from 6″ – 24″.  We have some that have passed 3 feet high, and are close to 4 feet.  I guess I should say, they were…now they are leaning quite a bit, and covering our walk way.  I’m so relieved that we have been spared both the tornado, and the hurricane that has come through out area in the past few months.  (Did feel the earthquake, but we used to life in California, we just thought it was weird here.)

Now…on to the story of A Pretty Good Day:

Today I woke up and was excited because Stuart mentioned if I felt alright we would go to the grocery store.

Yes…that sounds sad, but getting out of the house…heck, getting out of bed isn’t something I’ve done in a while.  As of last night, I’d been out of bed about 4-5 hours total since Aug. 22nd.  8 Days.  Wow.  (and those hours were spent on the couch.)

Well, I decided to take on much more than the grocery store, I wanted to go to Michael’s – the Arts and Crafts store.  I had the desire for new art supplies, and a new sketch pad.  Since I’ve been doing so much more art, I needed some new stuff.  I got 2 sketch pads, one has 90 lb. stock paper (this means it’s very thick and you can use watercolor on it.)  The other is just a sketch pad, about 50 -60 lb.  Not sure exactly, I found it in the Bargain Bin at Barnes and Noble.   So yes, I went to Michael’s, Barnes and Noble, Target, and Earth Fare.  We even ate at Earth Fare’s hot bar (Earth Fare is like a local…well, NC based…Whole Foods.)

I got new pencils that are so cool.  They are called Inktense by Derwent.  They are like watercolor pencils, but they are ink based.  Hard to describe, but you can draw with them just like colored pencils, then if you add water, the color gets vibrant, and very…well…I have to say it Intense.  I’ll be posting a drawing I did with them on my other blog Create to Heal.  If you are interested.

I feel like I easily walked a couple of miles today.  I over did it.  When we were walking around Target I know people thought I was drunk.  I kept losing my balance, and my words were not coming out right.  Stuart kept asking if I was alright, and I said I was….and I felt that since I understood I wasn’t quite right, then I was alright enough.  I explained this to him, and he seemed to take it in stride.  (remember, when he had his “episode” he thought he was fine, and he was…oh, so NOT.)

So great news today.  Minor nagging headache, haven’t needed to take any Diamox (the drug that lowers your pressure, and has icky side effects).  Off balance/disequilibrium a lot, but no spinning.  My hip/back/and knees all hurt….oh and so do my feet.   I’m sure the hip is going to yell at me tonight when I’m trying to sleep.  I’m going to get in a hot bath very soon.

Yesterday I published a series of photographs that I manipulated to show the intensity of my headaches.  I think some of you might like this: Translating My Headaches Into Images.

I’m sorry to see the summer coming to an end.  At the beginning of this summer, I had such hope, so many plans….and no frigging idea I’d have to have 2 CSF procedures!!  Well, look out Fall, because I’ve got a lot of making up to do!

Birthday musings, and getting creative

How many of us start to look at our lives and come up lacking in some way, especially around our birthday, or the beginning of the year.  We make goals, or resolutions….sometimes we actually keep them.

This year is no exception for me.  I knew I was getting close to my birthday because I started looking in the mirror with a more critical eye…humm, not as young as I used to be.  Heck, I don’t even think I look as young as I did last year at this time.  Gained a few pounds, more gray hair, a few more wrinkles, and these little dark patches on my face…could they be *gasp* age spots?  {shudder}  Yes, my illnesses over the past couple of years have worn me out.

a look in the mirror

I’m already trying to lose weight, 6 pounds so far!  Now if I can just keep it up.  I’m also trying to get some more exercise, that hasn’t been going as well as I’d like, I get dizzy every time I exercise.  Hopefully, that won’t be the case much longer!

I thought about coloring my hair, but do I really want to put those chemicals on my hair.  I finally got to the point where I think all of my hair is naturally my color.  Yes, some of it is gray…but it’s me.  I’ve always liked my cool gray streak on the left side, right in the front, but now it’s on the right side too.  I don’t think I’m looking cool any more, just old.  I’m thinking of putting a natural rinse on it to make it a little shinier, a little browner, and possibly make the gray look more like highlights.  It should just wash out.  If I decide to go this route, I promise I’ll post pictures.

For the wrinkles and dark spots (I will NOT call them AGE SPOTS!), I’ll use a bit more moisturizer, and perhaps some lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide applied to the spots will help lighten them.  We’ll see.  The hubby pointed out that there was a Groupon for a Chemical Peel.  Ewww.  I told him I was not vain enough to hurt for it!  (I don’t really think he understands what a chemical peel is.)  I can’t tell you why, but I got so tickled when I told him I wasn’t vain enough to hurt for it, I mean I just laughed and laughed.  Stuart thinks it’s very amusing how I crack myself up sometimes.

I’m thinking I will go out and buy me a new outfit.  Something that fits better, that makes me look more put together.  In other words, not the over sized T-shirts and shorts I’ve been wearing.

The Artist's Way by Julie Cameron photo courtesy of http://www.theartistsway.com

I’ve also decided on joining a group on another blog Ton-Fifty-ONE is going to be having a workshop covering the book The Artist’s Way, by Julie Cameron.  The workshop is 12 weeks long, and will start on July 4th.  Just 2 days after my birthday, how fitting.  I’ve owned this book for years, and I’ve tried to go through the process more than once, but I guess I’m either not good at following through something like this without a little push, or perhaps it was made me confront too many issues?  I don’t know, but I’m willing to try it again, and I’m sure that with the push that a group will give me, I can do it this time.  Just 12 weeks…3 months…to “discovering and recovering my creative self”.  If anyone wants to join me on this journey please come along.  I know I can use all the motivation I can get!

My creativity got bogged down by my chronic illnesses.  My biggest goal this year is to use my creativity to help me with my illnesses.  Help express myself…  The words are failing me, I can’t seem to get out what I want to say.  I guess I’m trying to say, I believe in art therapy….and so much more.

Working Girl

First, I’d like to thank all of my friends for checking on us after the storms hit North Carolina.  We were very fortunate, all we had at our house was a lot of rain.  The tornadoes came through the next town over.  Raleigh was hit pretty hard, but Durham wasn’t hurt.  It means a lot to me that so many people cared enough to check to make sure we were alright.

This week I’m working for my husband’s company.  His boss and wife are on vacation, and they needed someone to answer the phones and asked if I would be interested.  I was thrilled that I could say yes.  Just think a short time ago I couldn’t commit to anything like this.  Also, I couldn’t hear well enough to talk on the phone.  Thanks to my new iCom link for my hearing aids I can hear the phone right in my hearing aids, it’s great.  It’s like having a blue tooth in both ears at the same time.


This little box connects my hearing aids to my phone, TV, iPod, and/or computer.  If I’m watching TV and the phone rings it will shut the volume for the TV off so I can answer the phone.  How cool is that?  I just love this little box.

I’m still so amazed at how much my life has changed.

However, last night I had something unsettling happen.  I was putting my hair up in a pony tail, I turned from the mirror and the world did a little dip.  Just for a second, and it didn’t come back.  But before I would have thought that was the beginning of a vertigo attack.  My stomach did a flip-flop, but that was all.  Hopefully, it’s nothing, but when you’ve had my past experiences you know it could mean something.

What Wonders I am Hearing.

I’m so very happy with my hearing aids.  I had no idea I was missing so much.

My hearing aids, with a nickel and dime to show scale.

My right hearing aid has a larger ear piece because that ear has more severe hearing loss.

When I first put them in everything sounded so loud.  I could hear my own voice way too loud, but within just a couple of hours I wasn’t noticing my voice, and I was enthralled by all the little sounds I could now hear.  The audiologist told me that I might find some noises annoying, and she could program my hearing aids so they wouldn’t bother me.  Some people find the clicking of typing too loud, or high heels on the floor, or even news paper.  I’m more fascinated by the fact that I can now hear these things.   However, I have found one noise that is bothersome.

I told my husband a few days ago, “My hair is too loud.”   (he laughed and said it sounded as if I dyed my hair pink or something)  Seriously though, I hear my hair brushing against the hearing aids.  It makes this swishing sound that makes it hard to hear other things.  When I got my hearing aids I had my hair in a pony tail, I didn’t know my hair would be such an annoyance.  I hope she can program them so I don’t hear that as much.  The microphone is at the top of the part of the hearing aid that goes behind my hear, so when my hair is down my hair covers the microphone.

This is what my right hearing aid looks like in my ear.

Hearing aids are expensive, and unfortunately they weren’t covered by my insurance.  However, they are worth every penny.  I’m so thrilled with them already.

Next week I will be getting an iCom, it’s a device that makes it possible for my hearing aids to be able to interface with a diverse range of communication systems like telephones, televisions, MP3 players, computers or other audio sources.  I can’t wait to see how different talking on the phone will be.  I’m still having a bit of trouble with that.  It’s possible, but not ideal.  With this device my phone will ring in my hearing aids, and I can answer it by clicking on device and I will hear my calls in both ears through a blue tooth.

I’ll let you know how it works after I’ve tried it for a little while.

Oh, the things I can hear!

I’m really driving again now!

I’m so very excited, we bought me a car yesterday!!

It’s been about 4 years, give or take, since I had a car of my own.  Now that I can drive again, and we will probably be having a child in the house soon, it was time for me to start looking at cars.  It has taken about 2 months of looking, but yesterday we found the perfect car!

It’s a 2008 Convertible Volkswagen Beetle.  Isn’t it cute??

As a friend of mine said today, “Watch out Wendy’s on the road again.”

What a milestone.  Just think, I couldn’t drive just a few months ago, now I have my own car.  hehehe!