Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hear that? It's the last stone falling...

I passed the Qualifying Exam for my interpreting program!!! This was no easy feat, mind you. I’ve failed it twice before and last year the passing rate for those who took it was about 15%. It’s totally only because of God that I passed, and I’m very thankful for the prayers and support from my friends and family, too.

For several years now I’ve felt like I was marching around the Jericho wall, knowing this was the path God had for me, but feeling almost silly in light of the huge obstacles I faced. My learning disabilities and health problems seemed focused on making sign language interpreting as difficult as possible, but I’ve just kept walking… or stumbling… on.

Now it finally feels as though the walls have fallen down. Not to say there are no more obstacles, but just that they are more conquerable… or perhaps it’s that I know with God all things in His plan are possible!

The next step is internship. Within a couple of weeks I’ll be assigned internships with skilled interpreters in various college classes that have Deaf students. I’m finally getting to interpret for real, live people! I’ll start out observing the current interpreter, and then will gradually take over until it’s switched, with the mentor observing me interpret.

Also exciting news is that Peculiar People’s next collaborative book is finally published! The completion of Delivered has been a long-time coming because of one delay after another, not the lease of which was me getting Fibromyalgia right in the middle of the project. I was the director and a contributing author of this book. You can check it out here and can buy copies directly from me. Let me know if you want one.

God has definitely blessed me this year. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for next year. I pray each of you have a blessed year. Happy New Year 2010!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Finding the Pace of Life

Last week I was chatting with my young nieces about writing and drawing, when one of them commented, “Maybe when you grow up you’ll be a writer.” I had to laugh, but I also still get a little thrill sometimes when I realize, I am all grown up and I am a writer. Last month I got published for something like the fifty-fifth time, and last month I also started working professionally as a freelance editor. Of course, I’ve been doing small editing projects for friends and for PeP for years, but not full-sized manuscripts for strangers for pay!

This term I’m not taking any regular classes—just mock interpreting in one class and doing a Human Development correspondence course, as well as continuing with a little interpreting training with tutors. It’s a quiet schedule that seems just about right for my body, and lets me do occasional writing or editing in the evening.

I feel like my Fibromyalgia is finally as under control as it’s gonna get. My overall fatigue and especially pain levels are a little lower, and the cognitive problems aren’t as severe or as frequent. The only problem is that I’ve discovered in order to keep things that way, I have to limit my active activity time to about three hours a day, most days, with some rest days and lots of naps. So it limits things a lot, but I’d rather have a few hours I can do things well than have almost no good hours like happens when I push myself too hard.

On November 16th I have the next attempt at the Qualifying Exam for my interpreting program. I have to pass it in order to get an internship next term, graduate in the spring, and begin working part time as an interpreter. I feel fairly confident that I have the skills, I just have to pray my body will let me access them. It’s a performance exam, so not really something I can study for—just need to keep practicing.

Today I went to the DeafNation Expo. I took a couple of friends with me, one of whom doesn’t know much sign, so I got to do a bit of interpreting for him. Real life practice is always the best. We saw tons of people we knew at the Expo, so it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When I grow up, I want to be...

This year God has been teaching me two things: complete dependence on Him, and, in that dependence, how to find true joy. He’s been showing me that we were created to be happy, because in Him is fullness of joy. Here on this earth that joy will never be pure and complete, and we will face many trials and times of suffering, but even in the midst of those times, He will provide joy, if we wait on Him.

This is a bit of the story of my journey. I know it’s long, so if you don’t have time to read it all, please at least read the last part.

I started grieving in the summer of 2007. The loss had come a long time before that, but I’d never fully accepted it.

The life I was grieving was my own.

Each time I waited for test results, waited for a doctor appointment… each time I writhed in pain or was too tired to hardly hold up my own head, I wondered what it would be like to get the news that I was dying. I thought about what it would be like to know I had only a few months to live, or a few years. I hoped it would be long enough to finish a few books, to leave a legacy behind. I planned what I would say to my friends, how I would tell them. I even planned what to write on my blog.

Even more, I thought about how it would be to get the other answer--the one that told me what was wrong and how it would be fixed. I didn’t have to think much about what I would do when I got that answer, because I knew. I’d been planning my life since I was little, dreaming about what I would be when I grew up, just like all kids.

But the thing I didn’t think about was what I would do if neither of those happened. I didn’t think about what would happen if the answer wasn’t death, or really even life, but something in between. How do you plan for something that isn’t a “yes” or a “no”…something that’s not even really a “wait,” but is just, well… an “is.”

And yet, it’s something we should all be planning for, something we all should know will happen. Because the day will come for all of us when God says, “You don’t get to live according to your plans. You get to live My plans.”
Once I grew past the stage of wanting to be a pink and purple kitty cat, my childhood dreams for my future never changed a lot. All through my school years I had the same answer to that perpetual question of what I wanted to be when I grew up: A stay-at-home homeschool mom and a missionary, preferably to Mexico. The number of kids I wanted did change, rather drastically. As I matured, I realized my childhood visions of a dozen kids might be just a tad lofty. I adjusted it to the more reasonable number of six, and later even less, saying, “I’d be happy with at least four.”

I’ve always loved kids, and kids have always loved me. My mom calls me “the kid magnet.” Seriously, I can spend a total of 60 seconds with a youngster and the next time he spots me he’ll start screaming, “Amy!!” and jumping up and down excitedly. I pictured myself as the ultimate involved, imaginative Mom, with enough discipline to keep everyone happy, but with lots of adventures and fun. I figured I’d be married in my early twenties, start our family a year or two later, and after everything was settled down several years after that, perhaps be called to the foreign mission field.

You may wonder why writing didn’t play a role in what I wanted to be, and that’s because being a writer has never been something I want to attain someday. It something I am. I’ve always been a writer and I always will be one. A novelist, however, now that’s something I attain to be!

So I went happily through my young life, picturing my adult self as a wife, mom, writer, and missionary. In my senior year of high school, my hopes shifted slightly to accommodate a new love of figure skating, and a growing love of American Sign Language. My next-oldest sister and I began taking ice skating lessons. Though we were comparatively old to be learning that skill, and we both were beginning to struggle with our health, we threw ourselves completely into it and joined the group of “rink rats.” We were on the ice at least four days a week, practicing and soon entering competitions and working as assistant skating teachers. We even got to do some informal mentoring of the younger skaters in our social group.

Now my goals included becoming a figure skating coach, preferably with a lot of Deaf clients. Despite growing pain and fatigue levels, I made it farther than any of the coaches and parents expected. After four years of skating, I was able to do one of the lowest sit spins at the rink (though my camel spin, on the other hand, looked horrid! lol), could land all my single jumps, and was working on my axel and double sal cow jumps. Then, slowly, skating got too expensive and time consuming, and too painful.

Besides, God was drawing me toward another focus. Two summers in a row I attended ASL camp in Tennessee at the Bill Rice Ranch, a Christian Deaf ministry. It was there God began letting me know He had plans for me as a sign language interpreter.

Though I’d been playing around with sign language since elementary school, and more recently pursuing it more strongly, the thought of being an interpreter when I grew up had never crossed my mind. And yet, it fit so perfectly. I love languages, cultures, and people. I have a deep empathy with others, am not shy, and experience little to no stage fright. Perhaps the Deaf and interpreting community was to be my mission field. And though no husband was in sight yet, interpreting was something that could easily be adapted to being a stay at home mom. I could work one or two nights a week while my husband was home with the kids, or I could just accept special assignments like weekend Homeschooling workshops.

Still, if I had not known so clearly that this was the path God wanted for me, I would have given up so many times. The two year interpreter training program is stretching into four years, as I’ve been faced with learning disabilities and visual struggles, and one health problem after another. But there was always the bright future ahead. A future after the training program, when I would finally have a basic set of skills to build on, and I could go conquer the world. Perhaps I would meet the right guy shortly after I was done with school, and I could work as an interpreter for a bit before turning my focus to a family. I would be happy and healthy and my own energetic, happy-go-lucky self as an interpreter, wife, and mom. I could be a missionary here at home, or go work with foreign Deaf missions. And in between all that, I could write all those novels building up in my head.

And then…

Then came that answer, the diagnoses after all the tests and all the doctors. Fibromyalgia. It was a long word, and one I understood too well, since my oldest sister lived it every day. It was the answer that wasn’t a yes and wasn’t a no. It wasn’t death and heaven, and it wasn’t health. Instead, it meant a life of constant pain and fatigue, a life of sudden boughts of cognitive dysfunction, IBS, and innumerable other symptoms. A life with an illness that doesn’t kill you, but yet doesn’t get better or go away.

It meant a life that didn’t match my life. Suddenly my brain doesn’t always work well enough to understand English clearly, much less translate it into a whole second language system. Suddenly I’m so fatigued I can hardly think of any words, much less write amazing fiction stories. My pain levels teeter so high I can hardly load the dishwasher, sign for more than a few minutes, or hold a pen long enough to write a thank you note.

The thought of working full time and then returning home to an evening of housework and socializing suddenly is impossible. Thinking of caring full time for children is overwhelming. Life becomes defined by four letters: PACE. Pacing is the single most important thing to managing my symptoms enough that I can live…at least a little. I must work a little, and rest a lot. Before I do anything, I must think how it will affect me, and if it’s worth it…which is certainly challenged by the fact that how it affects me changes daily or even hourly.

“Why?” I cry out to God. “Why do you give me all these talents, skills, and dreams in one hand, and then fill the other hand with…this? How can I grow up to be the successful person You want me to be, if I’m to be sick, forever?”

Slowly, as I learn to accept my disability and learn how to live life as fully as I can with my limitations, I begin to see. Still, only as in a mirror dimly, but I see in my reflection how God uses my life--not the one I dreamed of, but the one I have--to bring Him glory, to reach people that other life would never have touched, and to trust Him and depend on Him completely.

As I do that, I see bits of those talents He’s given me can still be accessed. I grasp a little energy to write with, and times of less pain to interpret a while. As I learn to pace, those times grow. Perhaps someday I’ll even gain the strength to care for a family. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know one thing.

God is enough. In Him is fulfillment, and in Him is fullness of joy. Despite this earth, with its emotional and physical pain, we were created to have joy. Though it won’t come completely until we reach heaven, for now it is enough.

Today, on my twenty-seventh birthday, when my life is so different from how I dreamed it, I know what I’m going to be.

When I grow up, I’m going to be happy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The last two weeks have been wonderful, not just because they were fun and exciting and different, but because I was doing what I was created to do. There’s nothing quite as exciting and filling as taking small steps toward fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives.

Two weekends ago I joined my church’s young adult group on a retreat to the beach. This group has been my primary church family for over a year now. I was drawn to them because they are drawn to God. Unlike many youth groups that are focused on who’s going out with whom, or light games, this group is focused on God and on how we can support each other in our pursuit of Him. It’s a great mix of young adult ages, and meets less than five minutes from my house (when you live in the country, that’s pretty remarkable).

The retreat’s theme was glorifying God in our relationships, specifically relationships with our parents, significant others, peers, and God. After each sermon, we had a time in small groups to share what those truths meant personally. In between gatherings, we had time of fellowship, getting to know each other better and just having fun, surrounded by the sand, waves, and skies that delighted in showing off their Creator’s glory.

I had three days at home after the weekend retreat, resting, preparing to leave again, and continuing with my interpreting practice. On Thursday I flew to Detroit for the FaithWriters second writers conference. The flight there was a bit crazy, with several flight changes. I ended up having to fly all the way to Philadelphia and then back to Detroit, arriving about three hours later than planned. I was thankful I’d come in early, giving myself ample time to get there and to rest. I was glad, too, that I’d decided to buy a cane for the occasion. The flight and fatigue amplified my balance problems, so it was nice to have something to hang onto, plus it gave those around me a visual clue that I’m not quite as hardy as my age and appearance would indicate. Airline workers were quick to help with my bags and make sure there were electric carts to take me to my next location within the huge airports.

The conference itself was wonderful, of course. FaithWriters has been my second family for over four years now. The wonderful people there have come along side me through the message boards, instant messages, email, phone and texts, and now FaceBook, not only building my writing skills, but encouraging me physically and spiritually. It’s been an honor to be able to give a little back by helping coordinate the writing conferences every year.

It was great actually getting real hugs (rather than cyber hugs) from dear friends like Shari, Joanne, Laury, and Deb, and meeting many other friends like Josh and Vonnie for the first time. Though we didn’t get much sleep, it was fun to lay awake all night and chat in the dark with my roommate Karlene, getting to know her better. It was good to know Shari, one of my first FW friends, and I haven’t lost our connection. She might as well be a blood sister, the way we can finish each others sentences, and almost unfailingly answer the exact same things on games, or at least know for sure what the other one’s answer was!

There were a few writers there who are close to my age, too. Sara is so bouncy and bubbly and joyful, literally jumping up and down and clapping her hands half of the time. I just wanted to take her home with me. Leah, I actually could take home with me, almost! She also lives in Washington several hours north of me, and we determined that we’ll definitely not wait for the next conference before getting together again. It was sweet how many people would stop me and check to see how I was feeling, or be sure to make sure I had a chair--taking care of me without babying me. The workshops were full of great information, too, and I came home with many ideas for furthering my writing career. After the workshops, we played games late into the night, giving us a chance to get to know each other better. I got a little closer to a few people I hadn’t gotten a chance to know much, like Di, Peej, Allison, and Chely, and so many others. I arrived back home Sunday night, had a day of rest and then, with little time to miss my friends, jumped right into volunteering as a student interpreter for a drama group. On Wednesday I worked a full 8 hour day, and though I was very tired and in pain by the end of it, I made it through that and interpreting the next two half days. The drama was great fun, as that is one of my passions, and nice because it’s scripted and practiced, so easier to interpret (though I had a terrible time finding a teammate to help). I also interpreted for rehearsals and director’s instructions, and found that it wasn’t scary at all, especially in this low risk setting. In fact, I can do this, really do this! Of course I made plenty of mistakes, and learned a lot, but my clients were able to understand the information and interact with each other. It built my confidence a lot, and was a wonderful opportunity. I’ll hopefully get to work with this group again in the future.

I thank all of you who prayed and encouraged me through these busy weeks. It’s a testament to God that my body held up and I was able to accomplish everything. I had to be careful to rest as much as possible (and even skipped one of the writing workshops to lay down) but got through successfully and don’t seem to be crashing now too much. I know it helped that I’ve been able to rest and store up spoons earlier this summer.

Now things are quieter, and I suddenly have more time to miss my FaithWriter friends, and go back to the more boring interpreting homework assignments. At least I get to see my church friends tomorrow, and have plenty of writing projects to keep me busy, when I’m not resting or signing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Plain. Very Plain. Very plain with nothing on it.

I have food allergies. A lot of them. My sisters do as well and when my family gets invited to a friend’s house for dinner, our typical response is, “Are you sure? You might want to just invite us over for games or something.” As for eating out, we’ve learned which restaurants are allergy friendly, and which aren’t. Some places are great and will go out of their way to make sure there is tasty food we can eat. Some try to be helpful, but don’t realize to be careful about cross contamination and such (i.e. using utensils that have touched the allergen foods). Then there are the people who are just clueless.

“No, this gravy can’t have milk in it. Duh. It’s brown, not white.”

“You’re allergic to wheat? No problem, this isn’t wheat bread, it’s a white bread.”

These are the places that promise their meat is plain with no spices. Then they bring it out covered with marinade and spices. Turns out, they, themselves, personally didn’t add any spices. The manufacturer may have, but the cook himself didn’t. My sister and I have a rap: “Plain. Very plain. Very plain with nothing on it.” But you have to know what questions to ask to insure that it really, honestly is plain.

Right now my diet is even more restricted than normal because I am in a research study to see the effects on Fibromyalgia of avoiding excitotoxins (additives like MSG, which is often called natural flavors, or artificial flavors and artificial sugars), so I can’t have any processed foods.

Today I went to the doctor’s office to pick up barium packets for the CAT scan I’m having on my abdomen next week. They had told me there would be an ingredient list on the packets, but it only said, “Barium sulfate 2%.” The X-ray front desk lady told me that meant that was all that was in it.

Uh huh. Right. What’s the other 98%? So she agreed to call the electro imaging department. They, too, promised that there was only barium and water in the packets.

“So, there’s no flavorings?”

“Oh, it has a flavor.”

Yeah, last I checked, flavorings had to be made from something. Usually, from nasty stuff like excitotoxins. I finally gave up trying to get info from the doctor’s office (“It’s just barium, really. This is medical stuff. Of course it would never have MSG in it! Definitely not!”). I found a phone number of the manufacturer on the packets of barium. I left a message and they called me back promptly with a list of ingredients. A long list. A list full of natural flavors and artificial flavors and fake sugars. In other words, MSG.

The company worker said they do actually make a barium that is, honestly, just barium, but it has to be special ordered by the doctor’s office. I think I’m gonna go ahead and just drink the poison. By the time I get the CAT scan next week I will have had this weird abdominal pain for eight weeks. We need to find out what’s wrong. So next Wednesday I get to drink three glasses full. Yum!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Voice Acting--the stuff of life!

Today is the stuff life is made of. I volunteer weekly (when health permits, anyway) at the local state school for Deaf kids, helping out during after school electives. This term I was thrilled to get to work with the elementary drama group. I love acting, I love that age of kids, and I love signing…how much better does it get? (one more better, but I’ll get to that!)

Sometimes it was a little challenging because most of the kids only had a line or two in the skit, meaning at any given time during rehearsal there were about 12 bored little kids waiting for their turn, LOL. But that gave us volunteers something to do (help keep them out of trouble).

Young kids can be a challenge to understand in any language, and many deaf kids get no access to language until they arrive at school--putting them behind. Of course, it’s my second language, so that adds to the challenge. I started volunteering there (off and on) three years ago. It’s exciting to see my progress in receptive skills since then. Now I can understand pretty much everything going on, even overheard conversations (oh my, the little six-year-olds’ are sooo adorable, even when they are mad, haha. ASL is such an expressive language and they take full advantage of it! “If you do that, I’ll cry and cry! I’ll cry a roomfull of tears and drown in them!”).

The grand performance was tonight. On Tuesday near the end of practice we suddenly discovered that, contrary to what we assumed, there would be no voice interpreter for the play. Some of the audience doesn’t know sign, and the students really wanted their hearing guests to be able to understand the play they’d worked so hard on. Guess who got called on? You guessed it--me! Of course, I can’t technically interpret yet, but because we’re working with a script and get to practice with the actors it’s considered “voice acting” instead of interpreting.

I’ve loved reading out loud or doing dramatic readings with all the voices for as long as I can remember, and voice acting for real live people instead of fictional written characters is even better! I’ve had the opportunity to voice act for plays at the school before, and loved it. Though that time I actually got to prep and practice a bunch ahead of time, ha. This time we had a total of one afternoon of rehearsal. I asked a classmate to help me, so we could do the back-and-forth dialog. Of course, I’d seen the play (in bit and pieces) as they’d been learning it, but my classmate hadn’t seen any of it and wasn’t familiar with the kids.

The afternoon rehearsal today was pretty important. Yeah. Well. Both of us ended up stuck in freeway traffic. For almost an hour and a half. Meaning: we completely missed the rehearsal. Boo for forgetting it was Memorial weekend and realizing that meant everyone and their fifteenth cousin would be on the freeway.

Allrighty then. Thank God for a laidback group of people. We were able to at least talk over the script with the assistant director and introduce my classmate to the students and their roles. Then, right before the performance started, the kids went through the play one last time out on the back patio. Phew. We voiced it and worked out a few kinks and were ready to go!

It went marvelously. Of course there were mistakes, mostly things like voicing a line for the king with a high-pitched voice and the queen with a low voice--oops--but overall it went quite well. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as being rewarded with a ripple of laughter from the audience for a line well-acted and well-voiced. The kids did a great job of ad libbing and knowing that "the show must go on" when prop problems showed up, even when the princess (from Princess and the Pea) tumbled right off the tall bed with the air mattresses and covers crashing down on top of her! It rather added to the comic effect of the play.

After our elementary kids’ skit, the high school students did a play (without a voice interpreter). Wow. They did an incredible job with acting and props. It was beautiful.

[OK, survey--and I honestly want to know. I sat down to write a brief post about my day, and it turned into a page-long novel. Do you guys like reading my accounts with lots of details like this, or would you rather have a brief account with just the main info and a few funny anecdotes?]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hold on Tight--life's a wild ride!

Life is certainly never boring around here. Let’s see, last blog post I was waiting to hear back from my echo on my heart, right? Thankfully it turned out normal. Most all my symptoms can be explained by Postural Tachycardia, which is annoying but not serious, and more related to the circulatory system then the heart itself.

As I’d hoped, my health started getting a little better this term, now that my school schedule is more sane. I finally got a sleep aid that helped, also (before that, if I was sleeping at all, I was waking up as often as every fifteen minutes). I finished up the study I was doing on the new Fibro med. I’m hoping to be able to stay off a pain med and just have the sleep med. I really don’t like to be on prescription meds at all if I can help it. So, I had about two weeks of things going pretty well.

Then the next thing hit.

I started having a lot of nausea and abdominal pain, different and longer-lasting than what I normally have with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome--goes along with my Fibro). It didn’t feel like a virus or bug to me, so after several days I saw a doctor who decided it seemed to be a bad flare of IBS and gave me a med, with warnings to watch for appendicitis symptoms.

On Wednesday I was feeling sick and out of it with Fibro Fog, but went to school anyway. At least the cognitive problems provide good humor relief, if you let them! To give the rest of us practice interpreting in K-12 classrooms, a classmate was pretending to teach a 1st grade class, teaching shapes. Those who weren’t interpreting were pretending to be the 1st grade students. Some students pretended to answer questions wrong. As for me, haha, I didn’t have to pretend at all! The “teacher” passed out cardboard shapes and asked a question about road sign shapes. I held up a triangle and announced that yield signs were that shape--rectangles! Then when asked to find two squares, the “teacher” looked at what I was holding up and said, “Um, good try, Amy. You’re almost right!” LOL

I was finally feeling better last Thursday morning. I was excited because my Deaf interpreting tutor, James, had time free during my Mock Interpreting class for the first time all school year. (Mock is where a partner and I go to a real college class and interpret, but with only an imaginary Deaf client). I’m loving the class we’re interpreting in, though it’s a challenge, and I like having a real person to interpret for, so I was looking forward to having James be there. My Mock partner is a classmate, sister in Christ, and dear friend, Holly.

Thankfully I got through the class just fine and was headed to lunch with Holly before we met the tutor again to get feedback. We were almost to the cafeteria when pain hit. Bad. Like a knife ripping straight down from my belly button to my groin. For the next hour it hit me every few minutes. Sitting and laying down just made it worse.

I decided I better call my doctor. I knew they’d want to know if I had a fever, so I asked the college librarian if there was a nurse on campus. By that time I was shaking violently and pale and sweating from the pain. She quickly called security (1st aid response). He was cute. I told him I had Fibromyalgia and he looked blank for a minute and then brightened. “Oh, that’s a liver disease, right?” Um, yeah, not so much. I would have giggled if I hadn’t been so sick.

By then it was time to meet James. The stabs were coming a little less frequently, so stubborn me decided I would try to just push through the hour tutoring time so we could get feedback from James while it was still fresh in his mind. James watched me for a minute and then just got up and left. He’s like, “I’m leaving. Holly is driving you to the doctor.”

It’s so cool how I can see God’s hand in even things like this. Besides the timing of being able to finish the Mock class, it “just happened” that Holly was driving to a place a few blocks from my doctor’s office. She lives 45 minutes away in the opposite direction. That doctor looked at me and sent me straight to the ER (Mom came and picked me up).

I wish I could have the ER doctor for my primary care doctor. He actually talked to both mom and I (instead of ignoring one of us like many do) and explained the options and his opinion but let us have the final say without being pushy. They did blood and urine work and then did an ultrasound of my lower abdomen. Thankfully by then I wasn’t in too much pain. I can’t imagine having to go through an ultrasound if pressure caused pain. As it was, it was a little uncomfortable but mostly just interesting. I could see the pictures on a monitor over the gurney. Much of it wasn’t recognizable, but I was able to pick out my appendix and ovaries. The pictures are so curious…it isn’t a clear picture, but looks more like looking at something that has a thin piece of rubber stretched over it. The harder they push on the ultrasound wand, the tighter the rubber is pressed, making the outline of the organ a little more distinct. The pictures suddenly struck me funny and I got the giggles right in the middle of the ultrasound. Twice! I felt so bad because the poor tech lady couldn’t exactly do her job when the abdomen in question was shaking violently from giggles. Certainly that’s one of the few times in my life when I was saying to myself, “Think sad thoughts. Think sad thoughts.” LOL!

The ultrasounds looked normal. Five hours after arriving at the ER and eight hours after the bad pain first hit, I was sent home with only answers of what it wasn’t… The ER doctor said about 50% of the time they never do figure out what causes that kind of pain.

I’m still feeling a bit odd and achy in my lower right abdomen, but thankfully haven’t had any more severe pain. I have a follow up appointment next week. Unfortunately, I picked up a bad cold, probably compliments of the ER, and now have a bad cough. Just in time for mid-terms.
Ah well, such is life. I’m staying in pretty good spirits despite everything. School itself is going okay, other than the health stuff getting in the way. We have three extra interpreting tutors this term, two Deaf and two hearing interpreters, so we’re getting a variety of perspectives. It’s awesome and they are all so helpful and encouraging.

Last week Debbie Roome of Take Root and Write published an interview of me talking about life with an invisible disability. She writes the column “Daring to Love the Disabled.” The interview is here. I’m thankful for the opportunity to help spread awareness. I also have an article coming out soon in HopeNotes, a Christian magazine for people with chronic illnesses, and an interview being published in a book for teens who have Fibro. I’m thankful that God uses my trials to be able to reach out and help others.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In the land of Uz

I’ve been waiting for this week for a while, but it didn’t bring the answers I’d hoped for. I had my cardiology appointment on Wednesday and got the results back from my second Qualifying Exam yesterday. I was really hoping to pass the QE, and I feel I have the skills to do so, but because of the cognitive problems caused by my Fibro, I often can’t access those skills. It didn't help that I'd just come down with the flu the night before the test. Well, I improved on the sign to voice section of my QE, and passed it, however I actually got a worse score than before on the voice to sign part. Since we have to pass on both parts to get an official Pass, I won’t be able to get an internship or graduate this year. The next opportunity to take the QE is in nine months (we get four total chances to take it).

I have to admit I’m frustrated and discouraged, but I know God has plans. I can see that it was a very good thing I didn’t pass the first QE (no possible chance I could have made it through this term with the addition of an internship--almost didn’t make it as it is), so I know I may look back on this one and see the reasons I didn’t pass. As it is, I’m hoping that I’ll actually be able to take care of myself sufficiently enough to be higher functioning a greater part of the time. This weekend I realized that for the past two terms I’ve been having to spend nine to twelve hours at school (including driving time) everyday. That’s a crazy schedule even for a healthy person. (Because of the specialized program I’m in, I’ve had no control over my schedule.)

Next term will be a little easier since I won’t have the internship. I have my schedule for that term planned out, hopefully with a good balance of rest and continued practice, but I’m not sure what my plan of action will be for over the summer and next year. I need a few more general ed classes for my AA degree, and I need to continue to focus on my interpreting skills, but I think the main key to my success will be to get healthier, and about the only way I can do that is to rest more so my Fibromyalgia symptoms are lessened. I’m praying for guidance as I figure out where God’s leading me for the next year.

Speaking of health, my cardiologist appointment was…interesting. The guy had a rather condescending attitude and I’m quite sure he thought I was 18 and didn’t bother looking at my chart to see that I’m much older than I look. My impression of him didn’t improve when his response to my sign language interpretation studies was, “Oh, then you must work at the blind school.” (believe it or not, that type of comment actually isn’t unusual… but hello, this was a doctor with how many years of schooling??)

Anyway, the cardiologist declared that all my symptoms were simply because I don’t get enough exercise. However, according to my research, it seems that lack of exercise can’t cause heart irregularities. Exercise might help some heart conditions, but lack of it doesn’t cause them. I will be getting a second opinion, but now that my schedule will be getting a little closer to sane, I’ll go ahead and try to add in swimming a few times a week. I’ve heard it often helps Fibro as well as some heart issues.

I suspect my heart issues are actually caused by Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which actually isn’t a heart problem, but more of problem with the way the brain communicates with the circulation system. Basically the body has trouble regulating blood circulation, especially when standing, and therefore the brain doesn’t have enough blood. Apparently it’s fairly common for people with Fibro to also have POTS, and unfortunately some of the symptoms are the same. That means if I have it, I’m getting a double dose of debilitating fatigue, cognitive problems, and sleep disorders. Next week I go to my doctor for a prescription sleep med, so I’m hopeful that will help things a little.

*Title from Job 1:1

Saturday, February 21, 2009

With Wings

The time has come. I’ve had four years of hard work, challenging work. There were many times I wondered if I would ever make it this far. Yet, by God’s strength, here I am, facing the Qualifying Exam for my interpreting program. All of the work, sweat, tears, and yes, joy, comes down to twenty minutes. Two ten minute texts for which I must absorb every word, figure out the meaning, translate into another language and culture, and produce smoothly--all while still understanding the next sentence, and the next, never loosing a concept.

If I pass the QE on Monday the 23rd, I’ll be assigned an internship with a few skilled interpreters, and will began working under them as a classroom interpreter. Then I can graduate this spring (though I’ll have to take a few summer general ed. classes to complete my AA degree) and begin working in low-risk settings as an interpreter.

We have four chances to pass the QE. My class took the first one a few months ago. Only one student passed. I almost passed that one and was feeling confident about passing this next one. But God has a way of making sure that every time I start trusting in myself, a reminder comes along that HE is the one my strength comes from--I can’t do it myself. And so it was that I had a bad flare during much of this school term, primarily debilitating fatigue and cognitive problems. I went almost a month with only a few hours of interrupted sleep most nights. I failed a test because my short term memory couldn’t grasp what I was seeing quite long enough to write it down. I was having language production problems, meaning I was walking around saying things like, “Dad, it’s your turn to heat your food up in the dishwasher.” or, “Wheryugn?” And that was just the English chat, my ASL was worse and my interpreting… well, mostly wasn’t.

I’m doing mostly better now, but besides the tests I messed up, I feel like I lost about three weeks of practice time, and maybe even went backwards in skills. So here I am, facing the QE feeling totally unready, but trusting God because He’s already proved that He can do the impossible in my life.

This term hasn’t been all bad, though. In school we are focusing on K-12 classroom interpreting and our last topic in ASL class was interpreting children’s books. We each got to pick a book and then performed the story for our test. I wish all tests could be like that! I love it and had so much fun. I posted a video of it here.

I continue to be encouraged by how God uses my struggles to reach out to others. I was recently interviewed by a researcher from OHSU for a book she’s writing for teens who have Fibromyalgia. Then just last night I was invited to sit on a workshop panel of interpreters with disabilities. The workshop will be this spring and the panel will have a mix of hearing and Deaf interpreters with visible and invisible disabilities. Also this spring, HopeKeeper’s magazine is going to publish an article I wrote shortly after being diagnosed with Fibro.

Oh, I guess I should give an update on my heart, too. I now have a heart monitor, which has proved to be rather noisy and sort of amusing. When I start feeling heart palpitations (which is generally constantly from evening through to the morning, and occasionally all day) I’m supposed to push the button to record my heartbeat. Then the little machine gives off a loud tone with an even louder beep for each beat. Thankfully I can mute it a little by putting a finger over the speaker, but it still distracts my classmates. Then it rings every half an hour until I can get to a phone (can’t use a cell) to transmit the recording. I just lay the receiver of the phone over the monitor and it screams its beep into the phone at four times a faster speed. It often sounds rather like a beeping tea kettle. Somehow I don’t think that’s quite what a heart is supposed to sound like… I see the cardiologist next month. If something is wrong with my heart, I’m sure that’s contributing to my fatigue and sleep problems.

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Is. 40:31)