Monday, December 29, 2008

A transition into 2009- some highlights amongst the pain

It's almost the New Year.  The end of 2008 is a hopeful time for me.  It's been about the most challenging year of my life, the HARDEST thing that I've ever had to experience.  I thought at the end of 2007 I had experienced everything that I could handle.  But that was only 3 months of being ill.  Now after having an entire year of this hardship, I know that 2007 was a pretty successful year.  

In 2008 there were some highlights: 
  • I went to India, and had some life changing experiences observing the lives of those who live differently than I do, but also do so in a wonderful way that I enjoyed so much.
  • I learned to bake and decorate special cakes, even though they are something that I can't eat, they brought joy to others. 
  • I was able to put a name to some of the terrible things that were going on with my body.  Although I don't have all the answer, having some answers brings a bit of comfort in knowing it's "not all in my head."
  • I found some great blogs and websites dedicated to those with chronic illnesses.
  • I learned that eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet made me feel a whole lot better.
  • I got to spend 6 weeks with my sister and her family.  My nephew and I had wonderful conversations, did some great imagining, and played some games that I was able to stay on the couch and have just as much fun as if I was able to run around and or hike.
  • I read a countless number of books with topics ranging from chronic illness, mountaineering, Janis Joplin and other amazing 60 and 70s musicians, and some spiritual encouragement along the way.
  • I developed some of my photography, crocheted some beautiful projects, and decided that I really enjoyed creating.
  • I started massage therapy, which I learned is not just a luxury for some people, but a necessity for many with chronic pain conditions, including me.
  • I got a cat named Popeye who is the sunshine of my life on my darkest days.  And Scarlet our snake continues to grow and provide entertainment and a glimpse of God's intricacies in creation.
  • Barack Obama was elected president.
  • I learned about a wonderful girl named Aimee Dickey who was battling an inoperable brainstem glioma.  Aimee died on December 12th, but her life's wish was to educate people about childhood cancer and put an end to the suffering of cancer.  I hope to carry Aimee's legacy into 2009.  
  • I never met Aimee or her mother Annette, but I feel very close to them, and I feel that I became a friend of Annette's during 2008.  I hope that this friendship will continue, and that we will meet face to face sometime in 2009.
I hope that these things will carry me into the New Year, and enhance my life.  I already have a few things lined up for 2009 including a yoga class that I am very excited about.  I feel so blessed to have found a yoga studio within walking distance (even for me) from our apartment.  I'm not sure if I will ever set foot into a gym again.  

I will also be seeking disability from the Social Security Administration this year.  My initial application was denied, but I am working on contacting a lawyer to help with the process.

I have been attending counseling for several weeks now, and will begin group therapy most likely on January 12th.  This will hopefully be where I learn the skills to live a life that worth something more than what I feel it is now.

I am excited to celebrate the New Year here in Pennsylvania with family friends who have known me for a very long time.  They love me unconditionally, and it will be a great time.

I hope that you find grace and blessings in this time of transition.  Happy New Year, and God Bless.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Toxic Coal Ash Spill

I hope by now you have heard about the toxic spill that occured in Harriman, Tennesse spilling 500 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge over 400 acres. The link below will point you to a round up of news stories related to the incident. I will write more when I learn what we can do to help with the clean up.

Home Scenes

From Christmas 08

The Christmas Tree from the couch, it didn't look that big in the forest!!

The chimney in the addition.

View from the Bell's dining room on Christmas morning.

View from my parents' dining room. When I was little I thought the farthest hill was Paris. It's actually near Scranton.


Why do I care so much about what other people thing?  Why do we as human care so much about what other people think?

If you see a book that looks interesting read it, don't read the reviews.  Maybe it's not the best book, but most likely you learned something.

If there is a movie out that you think might be entertaining, go see it.  Don't rely on the critics, perhaps it's not great cinematography, but you might have been entertained.

There are many examples of this, but it's just something that is on my mind at the moment.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to get a post in tonight on Christmas Eve, because the next few days will be a whirlwind of spending time with family.  I am looking forward to this because I do not get to see my family as much as I would like.  But I am also anxious because I have not been feeling the greatest, and know that it will probably continue.  But I will do what I can, and rest when I can, and try to be in the moment.

I hope you find grace this Christmas, and I that the New Year brings wonderful things.
See you on the other side.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent

So I kind of slacked last week, the third Sunday of advent.  I wasn't feeling the greatest and by Wednesday I figured it would just be the best use of my energy to wait until this week to post another Advent post.  This is better than last year, where I didn't post at all, even though I had intended to.

This is what I woke up to this morning and I thought it was beautiful, for some reason it tells of expectancy, of the coming day, of the coming week.

I think a scripture of rejoicing is an appropriate thought for today.

Luke 1:47-55 (New International Version)

    47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
 48for he has been mindful 
      of the humble state of his servant. 
   From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
    49for the Mighty One has done great things for me— 
      holy is his name. 
 50His mercy extends to those who fear him, 
      from generation to generation. 
 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 
      he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 
 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
      but has lifted up the humble. 
 53He has filled the hungry with good things 
      but has sent the rich away empty. 
 54He has helped his servant Israel, 
      remembering to be merciful 
 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, 
      even as he said to our fathers."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Tree Gettin'

I went out with Ryan and Glenn this afternoon to get the Bell Family tree.  This consists of taking Glenn's rebuilt Land Rover into the woods with a chain saw and cutting something down.  It snowed quite a lot yesterday so the scenery was wonderful.  I don't know if much beats a Pennsylvania winter.  

I didn't venture far away from the truck, but was able to get plenty of great shots just standing in the woods.  I spent one of those moments you can't really explain in words, but I put together a slide show of some of todays photos.

Friday, December 19, 2008


It's been great being at home since Tuesday, or at Ryan's family's farm anyways.  It's snowing and it's beautiful.  I will try to take some pictures soon, but I'm not feeling really well today.  Recovering from the excitement of my birthday.  

I'm sitting here talking with Ryan's brother Glenn about future plans and what we see ourselves doing.  He's a sophomore at Shippensburgh University majoring in geo-environmental sciences, which I think is awesome.  He's also a javelins star and we are hoping he will be attending the NCAA National Championships again this year.

Our future plans have a lot of intertwining desires.  He's very interesting in promoting good environmental practices and the like.  

Anyways, things are good here.  Trying to stay healthy and enjoy the farm.

The shitty thing about being home in PA (and really this isn't shitty at all) but every time I come home, I never want to go back to OH.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Health Plan

So I've made it to Pennsylvania.  I am at the farm in Wyalusing with the in-laws.  it's a great place to be, and I love the snow.

I know that colds and viruses are everywhere, plus the stomach illness that come from eating too much.  So I have made a plan to stay healthy.  Besides my normal everyday prescriptions and vitamins(multi-vitamin, calcium), I'll be taking a super packed Vitamin C beverage mix.. you know those commercials, where it fizzes and all.  Well mine doesn't fiz.  It's generic store brand, but it's good enough.  It has Vit C, and a B complex for energy, and there's one more thing, but I can' think of it at the moment.

Also, for my tummy, I'll be taking plenty of fiber supplements, and regular doses of pro-biotics.  These keep the healthy bacteria in the intestines more prevalent than the bad bacteria that makes you bloated, constipated, or a little loose.

Yoga in the morning and perhaps some stretching, meditating in the evening.  Also lots, and lots, and lots, of water.  So that's my plan.  I hope it works.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grand Rounds Debut

So I haven't been involved in any kind of blog carnival, but I decided to submit a post this week for the Grand Rounds hosted at A Chronic Dose, you can check it out here.

I'm mentioned towards the end under the debut section.  

I'll hope you'll check out some of the other posts as well.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Silly Chrissy

I am home again from church this Sunday pinned down by a cat.  Life with Fibromyalgia isn't easy, but it doesn't get any easier when you do stupid things that cause you to fall on your face.  My head hurts, and this is what my nose looks like. 
You should see the other guy. It actually looks a lot worse in person. So I shall entertain you with news from the treehugging Christians.  More on Advent later today.

I found this website thanks to a great pastor friend.

The Network Alliance of Congregations Caring for the Earth (NACCE) is an ecumenical, volunteer-run, non-profit organization established in 1986 to encourage the many strands of Christian tradition in the work of healing the damaged earth.

Earthkeeping News is a weblog of news, articles, quotes, calls-to-action, creative writing and other resources related to ecology, spirituality and Christianity.

The Headline Story is of specific interest to me as I have been watching Richard Cizik for awhile and will be interested in what his next move will be.  Here is a short snippet of the post.

Richard Cizik, the Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, resigned this week upon the request of the Board.  It seems his interview with Terry Gross of National Public Radio, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Rich has been the subject of controversy ever since he began in recent years to push the NAE’s political focus beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage to something more vaguely relevent to progressives, especially global warming.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video Editing

I edited my first real video last night.  This is for Ryan's masters seminar.  I wanted him to narrate but he said he was just going to do it during the presentation.  So there is no sound.  In some of the actual sound of the video, Ryan said some not nice words, so hence, no sound at all.  

It's a spider drinking:

I would love to have a really nice video camera some day, it's why I got my awesome computer to begin with.  For it's ability to edit photos and video.  However, I need more RAM and the photo program I want to do anything with photos.  If anyone out there wants to increase my artistic ability.  I'm accepting donations.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Colors of the World

After having my attention drawn to this story: Around the World in 30 Colors from the website Environmental Graffiti, I was inspired to post one of my favorite colorful pictures from my trip to India.  

These colorful jugs were all over, used as a way to bring water into the home from the closest source.


I got quite a lot of advice from my post about direction.  I guess I should ask more often.  You were all more than helpful.  So I plan on staying here right where I'm at and include everything I have to offer the world.  

Right now (today) that's not a lot, but I know that will change.  Keep reading dear friends.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Second Sunday of Advent

Mark 1:1-8 (The Message)

Mark 1

John the Baptizer
 1-3The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. 

   Watch closely: I'm sending my preacher ahead of you; 
   He'll make the road smooth for you. 
   Thunder in the desert! 
   Prepare for God's arrival! 
   Make the road smooth and straight!

 4-6John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

 7-8As he preached he said, "The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will change your life. I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out."

So today finds me with at least a cold, which means church as a no go.  So I have to draw on my own creative juices to reflect on the Second Sunday of Advent.  Last week we saw hope in the coming of Christ, this week I see something more of expectancy.  In the various sources that are available on Advent they almost all agree on the first candle representing Hope, the remaining three candles can me any number of things, including Biblical characters, or events.  For today's reflection I chose John the Baptist, who prepares the way, which is where I see today as a Sunday of expectancy.

I tried to find a good image of John the Baptist but the pickings, at least to my standards, were slim.  Most of the art is either the Baptism of Jesus, or the beheading of John the Baptist.  Or just a saintly image.  Any photographs that may be described as living art remind me too much of Monty Python.  So I suppose you will have to create your own picture here.  

Let me help... Imagine Ryan, coming out of the woods at you, wearing a camel hair dress, with a leather belt.  He carries with him his lunch, in a sachel, consisting of locusts and wild honey.  Come to think about it, it's not that hard of an image to imagine.  But I digress.

John the Baptist came to prepare the way of Jesus, speaking of forgiveness of sins, and apparently this was good news because thousands flocked to him to confess their sins and be baptized.  I doubt it was his handsome appearance, but more of the message that he was bringing.  The message of the coming of Christ.

This week, imagine yourself as a sort of John the Baptist.  I'm not asking you to eat locust, but I sure do love honey.  Spread the news of the coming of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and life in the New Kingdom.  

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Several weeks ago, I experienced my first real life crisis, the thought of wanting to take my own life, and the inability to rationalize any reason not to.  Since then, as I've been going through treatment, I've been thinking about my life.  What directions do I want to go in, or what directions do I have the ability to go in.  Right now, I feel like I'm going in circles.  A few weeks ago I wrote about being on a roller coaster that wasn't fun anymore, I didn't really leave any explanation to the post, but my emotions are going up and down and sideways all the time, without any real rhyme or reason. 

I have so many passions, so many deep feelings for the people of this world and for the environment.  At the same time, I have so much going on in my own life.  I have to get myself on a more straight road, before I can help others.  I can't be much help to people when I don't know if I will be able to get out of bed from one day to another.  And this frustrates me.

Right now this blog seems to be the only connection I have with the world.  The only way to get the word out about what I see as important, what I see as needing to be done.  Yet sometimes I don't think that people are listening.  I began this blog because I felt I had something to say.  This is how my first blog post reads: 
Here I am, starting yet another blog. It's not because I'm trying to be cool or popular, but because I really have things to say. I do some writing over on Myspace, but it's really not cutting it for me. I spend too much time learning about people's private lives and not saying what I have to say, which is sometimes important. Also I wasn't spending enough time outside...I wasn't enjoy nature, God's creation. Now I am trying to spend much less time on the computer and much more time among the trees.
I am here to post my opinions and tell the world what I have to say. Please comment if you have something to add to the discussion, even if it's disagree with what I have to say. Nothing will never get resolved if there is no dialogue.

Now as I'm stuck with the directions of my life, I am also stuck with the directions of this blog.  I didn't think it was possible but over the last two years, I have found more things that I need to tell people about.  I began with the church, with spirituality, religion, and the environment.  I added bits in pieces of my daily life, hoping to show my beliefs in how I live.  Then came the GREAT PNEUMONIA INCIDENT, this kept me from blogging for several months, due to the fact that I could barely breath, or get out of bed.

Then with the diagnosis of many chronic illnesses, I turned the attention to this blog to advocating for awareness and understanding.  I saw this as an important aspect of my life,  but it did not have much of a place in a blog about Christianity and the Environment.  Also, with my recent crisis, I've become more involved in mental health awareness, and have been interested in keeping everyone I care about informed of my daily struggles.  Which this blog has also been ideal in serving in that purpose.

So here I am, expanding my horizons in the blogging world.  But I'm stuck, feeling like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, and the Scarecrow is telling me which way to go.  Do I keep just one blog, and hope that the range of things I write about keep people interested enough to come back.  Or do I begin again with another blog separating the original Living in the MidWest about my life, Christianity, and the Environment, starting a new blog about chronic physical and mental illness, and my struggle with those.  Would I be able to keep up, would people read both, or would I just be stuck with two blogs, and no readers?

I've been going over this for some time now.  In reality I am fulfilling what my initial intention of this blog was, writing because I felt I had something important to say.  The scope of those important things have just been broadened since September of 2006.  

Please advise on this subject, because I've come to a cross roads and the scarecrow is not cutting it.

Friday, December 05, 2008


If yesterday was bad, today is OK.  The weather isn't great, which makes whatever hurt I'm experiencing worse.  

But, I love my cat.  I love that he likes to be near me.  He licks my ankles or toes, or even my nose if I let him.  He prefers when both Ryan and I are together.  Hopefully this makes the 8 hour ride home an OK experience.  We are getting ready to go home in just a little over a week.  There seems that there is a lot to be done, but I'm not going to let it get to me.  Ryan is the one who needs to present his research and succumb to a 2 hour oral exam.  But, I'm sure he'll do great, he's working hard.

Scarlet has been out and about a lot lately.  I think she likes our new apartment, there certainly is more light than the last one.  She just started eating mice that have hair on them, which is significantly bigger than the pinkies she's eaten since we got her.  I love watching her climb around in her tank.  And so does Popeye.  I think maybe he feels he needs to protect her.  He sits in front of her tank, or on top.  It doesn't seem to bother her.  I'm positive she feels safe, and I think sometimes, they even look at each other... kind of to say, "who are these crazy humans who have brought us home?"

That's all for now.  Popeye is bathing, and I must too if I want to get anything done today.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Pain Pain Pain Pain Pain.  Perhaps this is what they call a flare, because although I've hurt pretty much for the past year, this is fairly unbearable.  I'm not exaggerating.  

I officially hate fibromyalgia... it is no longer something I can deal with.

Pickering Knob, West Virginia

This is what it looks like.

Obama and Mountain Top Removal

Notice my little widget thing to the left.  Please click on that and learn more about mountain top removal and what President-Elect Obama can do to stop it.  I previously posted here about my feelings on mountain top removal, and although the widget is a little humorous, that topic is not. It will only take a few moments to educate yourself on the issues.  Thanks. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


It's here.  I'm excited, are you?  Get excited...... 

For what you might ask?  For presents, for the opportunity to take off work and travel?  No, I'm not talking about Christmas, I'm talking about Advent.  About the anticipation of the coming of Christ.  

What could be more exciting?!

It's already Wednesday, I kind of dropped the ball getting a post about the first Sunday of Advent.  So I will start there, and hope to post again on Sunday.

On the first Sunday of Advent we light the candle of Hope.  I've been celebrating Advent my whole life, particularly in the United Methodist Church.  My mother has been in charge of buying the candles and setting up the wreath for as long as I can remember. I also remember as an acolyte lighting the first purple candle after the Scripture had been read.  I was always nervous about lighting it at the right time.  If I lit it too soon, then I would have to stand there, all silly like, while the pastor finished the reading.  If I waited too long and the reading was over, the congregation would stare as I attempted to light a fresh candle, which is never an easy task.  But I guess that's what Advent is about, waiting, for the right time.

I'm pondering the Old Testament scripture that is designated for the first Sunday of Advent this particular year. 

Isaiah 64:1-9

64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence--

64:2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

64:3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

64:4 From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.

64:5 You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.

64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

64:7 There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

64:9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Isaiah sounds so desperate, so longing for change, longing for change by God.  

In verse 6 it says "we all fade like a leaf," right now in Ohio the leaves have faded, it is now December and the city has started cleaning up the piles of leaves in the street.  

I always have a hard time reading about an angry God, I like to think of the saving acts of Jesus, without remembering the creative acts of God in the Hebrew people.  Isaiah acknowledges the anger of God, but also is reminded that God is the potter and we are the clay.

This week, or the second half of this week, lets be like clay and let God mold us into what God wants us to be as we wait for the coming of Christ this Advent season.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Runners Up

If your name or face does not appear below, do not feel hurt or slighted.  These people especially come to mind when I think of the last year.  Jason Allison has been omitted from the slide show as I do not have any acceptable pictures of him, but he has been a great pastor.

One exception is my mom, who I did not have a great picture of, and I believe she deserves a post all of her own.  Perhaps some day soon.  Love you all.

Man of the Year: Ryan Bell

It seems almost a weird time to be announcing a man of the year award.  It is near the end of 2008, but don't those things usually happen at the beginning of the next year?  Either way it doesn't matter.  Because time and again this man has stood up and been a great human being over the past 12 plus months.  

When I got sick last year around Halloween, we were both pretty engrossed in our own lives and busy as heck.  But he put things on hold to take care of me.  He brought me drinks, made me my meals over and over again, even when all I wanted was eggs or grilled cheese.  He cleaned out my cups full of tissues and mucus when I was coughing so much it didn't make sense to get out of bed to spit anything out.

Everyday he came to the hospital while I was there to share my dinner with me.  While the hospital food wasn't the stereotypical horribleness it could have been, I'm sure he could have eaten better somewhere else.  He brought me anything I requested, and when it was time to go home he continued to do all the things that made me feel comfortable and better.

Flash forward a year later and I am still struggling with my health and with my life.  He is extremely busy trying to finish his masters degree that almost got put at a stand still last October, but he never fails to amaze me.  He does the laundry because it hurts too much for me to do the repetitive motions of bending over to deposit clothes in the machine and take them out again.  He does the dishes most of the time unless I've mustered up some strength for a small stretch.  And even though cleaning the litter box is MY job, he does that when it hasn't been done in awhile either.  

He has been to countless appointments with me, either just as a driver or as a second person in the room to listen and ask questions, and he continues to be involved in my care both physically and mentally.  He warms up my heating pads to keep my sore muscles and joints comfy, and he still cooks the meals I want, even when they are the same thing over and over again.

Twice this month I have given him the Man of the Day award, for doing two very different things.  The first was when he effortlessly broke a frozen slab of bacon in half over the kitchen counter, in my amazement who else was I going to award the man of the day award to.  And at 2am this morning when I rolled over to ask him if he was awake after I was tossing and turning and had even been up to go to the bathroom, he replied yes.  My stomach was upset from my meds, and I wanted a glass of ginger ale.  Bleary eyed he got up and got it for me, when I probably could have easily gotten it myself.  I awarded the man of the day award again, but he thought it was awful early in the day to be giving out awards.  

That's when I decided really that this post needed to be done.  People needed to what he has done for me through all that I've been going through.  So world (or my handful of readers)  Ryan Bell is my man of the year.

Stay tuned for runners up, they might even include a few females.

Monday, December 01, 2008

$20 Challenge

A few weeks ago Pastor Jason at Terra Nova challenged our congregation to change the world with $20.  What he meant by this, was instead of taking a large Christmas collection from the church and donating it to one organization or another, we would each take $20 and see how we could make a difference.  He encouraged us to join forces with our life groups, or our neighbors, and perhaps do something larger than just one person could do with $20.  

At first Ryan and I had some grand ideas of raisi
ng money for one of my favorite organizations, Heifer International.  But as reality sank in, Ryan didn't really have the time, and I'm not sure if I have the energy to devote to the large scale project we were planning.  Ryan is working hard at finishing up his masters degree in entomology, which takes up a very large portion of time.  I am very proud of him for this, so we decided to go our separate ways in the challenge.  

I am not sure what Ryan will be deciding on doing with his $20.  But I mentioned my latest project last week about Warm Up America.  I will continue to work on that project and hope to have at least one afghan done by December 14th which is when our challenge is to be completed.  $20 can buy a lot of yarn, so I hope to make some baby afghans as well as hats with some left over yarn from my afghan.  But that might have to wait till after the holidays.  The biggest focus now is getting 49 7"x9" squares done in 2 weeks.  I will be posting pictures of my progress, and pictures of the completed project.  I foresee the most difficult part of the project will be joining all the squares together to from the afghan.
Here is a photo from my first week of working on the project.  I already have a few more squares I made after taking this picture last night. 

And they are not actually squares, they are rectangles, but don't tell anyone.