The Fix-It Fairies

Publishing my first book is an exciting time. I love how a simple story I once told my kids has transformed into something real.

A couple of years ago, I did what all moms do. I made up a story to comfort my daughter after she got hurt. She questioned why it took so long for her cut to heal and while the nerd in me wanted to talk about the process of cell regeneration, I knew that my three year old would not take that as an answer.

Instead, I told her of a group of fairies. These fairies were not magical but they were hard workers and they would come when she was sleeping to help fix her cut. These fairies soon became a part of our household conversations. Both Evelyn and her brother, Alexander would talk about the progress the fairies made the night before, and for once, they were excited about healing, instead of painful aware of the long process it took. Evelyn’s addiction to Bandaids even subsided as she realized it would make the fairies work even more difficult if they had to crawl under the Bandaids in the middle of the night.

About a year ago, my husband told me that the Fix-It Fairies needed to be shared with the world. So, one day, I sat down and wrote out the story I had been telling the kids. I didn’t think too much about it, but instead of stressing, I sent out the first draft to a publisher. Within a week, there was a response: it was being sent to the editors. Then a month later, I was sent a contract. Now, here we are and this little story, made up out of desperation to calm a hurt child, is about to be released.

May 15, 2018.

I am shocked. I am excited, but mostly, I am thrilled that this story that helped my own children can be used to help children everywhere. It is about hope and hard work. It is fun and is something I hope to read to my grandchildren when they are young. It is something that I hope my children will always treasure and look back at, knowing that they inspired these fairies to come to life and helped me create the book.

Writing a children’s book was a fun adventure for me. The process of getting the book from random thoughts in your head to being on paper to getting published for the world to see is a lot more stress than I had originally thought it would be. However, it is worth it. I also had a lot of help from my wonderful husband and my awesome kids, especially when it came to the illustrations. If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. In fact, the kids and I have already started thinking of other books that we should write. We shall see.

If you do want to check out the book, It is on Amazon:

The Fix-It Fairies by Samantha Gray

Invisible Sludge

When your nightmares come to life yet you are the only one that can see them… Autoimmune disease and the true reality of a fake perception.

I have had the dream for as long as I can remember. It is one where I am running but I am stuck in some sort of sludge. not physical sludge, but one that I can’t see. It is pulling me down, making me slow, letting the bad guys get closer and closer. I can see my escape but I don’t know if I can reach it before they get to me.

Now I am an adult. I know I am fast. I have made myself that way over many years of training. I know I am strong. I eat well and make sure I don’t get sucked into a vicious cycle of fast food and unhealthy choices. I have made the decision to avoid the sludge. Yet, somehow, the dream has breached into my reality. My body doesn’t function the way it did even a year ago. It is painful to step up or down stairs; to squat down to give my children hugs. The exhaustion clings to me, pleading with me to stay in bed or lay down a bit longer. Sometimes the pain is so bad that it brings me to my knees. The dream has seemed to taken over a body that was trained to fight, but I haven’t surrendered to it.

18156964_10212776208741111_734561318501367772_n
Even though my body may want to quit, I have two beautiful children that keep me striving towards my super-hero status. 

Learning to live with an unknown autoimmune disease is almost as if I am living in that nightmare. My body wants to quit on me, but yet, my mind keeps trying to tell me to keep running. To not give up. To keep moving. Just a year ago, I was the definition of health. I felt great, my body was strong. I was Super Mom (well at least thats what my kids thought). However, things started changing. Fast.

10346525_10204572639136998_7200623846684054604_n
My life just a couple years ago. Fit, strong, and unstoppable

Now, I look in the mirror and I am a girl trapped in glass. My body still looks the same. However, it is the battle that is going on inside that has changed me. That is the hardest part. I look like a very healthy woman. So healthy that my immune system doesn’t know what to do but to fight itself. It has left me blinded in one eye and has presented me with issues such as extreme fatigue, joint pain, migraines, and painful muscle spasms to name a few. I keep hoping this is just another nightmare that I will awaken from, but I know better. This is my new normal, at least for now.

 

18056712_10212714719403916_2345226196498622210_n
Even with only one eye, I am still able to see how lucky I am

I am not a person who posts the bad things about my life. It just isn’t my style. However, with this post, I am hoping for people to realize that what their eyes may see when looking at a picture or a person isn’t the whole story. Just because people make look healthy or happy doesn’t mean they are. Perception is not reality. In fact, I have talked to many people who are sick, have been sick or who are disabled and I would never have known if it weren’t for their courage to talk to me about their experiences. What you see with your eyes is only an optical illusion when it comes to a person’s life and their struggles. Please remember this when you talk to someone. We rarely know what a person is going through and we never know the whole truth about their feelings or their pain.

I haven’t given up on my body. I keep fighting, even when it causes repercussions that last for days or weeks. I still have unfinished dreams and goals that I need to achieve and nothing will stop me from trying. I have had a rough year but it is only a year, not an eternity. I hope that one day, the dream will end. I will make it out of the sludge and get away. However, even if the sludge is still trying to hold me back, I will continue to run away from the darkness trying to take over. I will keep running towards safety and I wont let this nightmare get to my heart and soul.

So until then, the nightmare continues, even when I am awake. The sludge is slowly incapacitating me. I am trying to run but my body is in fighting something it can’t see. This may not be my dream anymore, but I do know how it always ends. Somehow, someway, I always manage to escape. Maybe that is what life is all about: making it through the sludge and coming out a better person.

 

Idaho: Coming Back to My Reality For Two Weeks

After two months of travel and adventure in Western USA, coming back home (for two weeks) was more than I expected. d

We are back in Idaho. Home sweet home. However, Idaho brings about a whole new set of emotions with it. A little less than two months ago, we set out on our first adventure. There was so much to see and so much that we didn’t even have time to see. We added trips to Utah with Zion, Bryce and Cedar Breaks and Arizona with Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. These were not on the initial itinerary but were phenomenal additions that helped me cross off some bucket list items. The entire trip was breath taking with a lot of great pictures, memories and feelings along with it.

Coming back to Idaho was a wakeup to reality though in a way. The day after getting back into town, I had a couple doctor’s appointments and today rounded it off with another optical appointment. Each brought back the harsh reality that I am not the same girl I was a year ago and there is a big possibility that I will not be the same girl a year from now. It is a hard pill to swallow.

Going on the first trip was almost an escape from reality. There were issues that we had to overcome. Days like Bryce Canyon where I can barely remember the day because the pain in my eyes was so bad that I laid in the front seat on our way there trying not to throw up. However, the storm settled and I pulled it together to go on a bike ride with the kids, soaking in their smiles and the beautiful landscape that unfolded before my eyes. The reality of how life has changed in the last eight months was always present, but less to deal with since in a way I was trying to run away from the reality of it. I suppose it was bound to catch up with me.

Oh! But I have missed Idaho. I miss the “suspiciously nice” people that live here. I miss the scenery. Good friends and a familiarity that I hadn’t had in nearly two months.

The thing that got me was the doctor appointments. It wasn’t bad enough that there were still no answers or solutions to the puzzling health issue. It was the fact that I was returning to my former place of employment. The place I had to quit because I was no longer physically able to work. My old life. It hurt more than I was prepared for. It hurt bad enough that my doctor had tears roll down her cheek as she gave me a hug and told me WE would get through this. Being there reminded me that my life has taken a huge 180 and brought me from a professionally motivated go-getter to someone who can’t read for more than 5 minutes without pain and can not work because she got death the wrong cards. It was not the place I was ready to be at.

The first couple of days in Idaho also made us think a lot about where we want  to be. Do we stay in Idaho where the mountain streams beckon to our wild west side? Or do we leave the West and move closer to family, who will not only provide the support and history but also allow for our kids to grow up while getting into mischief with their cousins? How long will we travel full-time? We are currently doing two weeks in Boise followed by two weeks on the road. What is our end game? There are so many things on the table that make things hard to figure out. What we do know is that we are happier having a simpler life. We are in a house that is about 400 square feet but are more relaxes than when we lived in something five times the size. It brings with it an easy fresh start, new adventure, or good memory. Life is better when it is less complicated. Less stuff. I focus more on the stuff that matters instead of the stuff that I once collected to impress those around me.

Coming back to Idaho has really shown me that while you can’t hide from your life, you certainly can embrace the new normal and make the most of it. It has made me appreciate the relationships I have with my friends, family and those I meet along the way. It makes me realize that we need to have an end plan. Maybe even a place to settle down and make my own. It had me torn about where I should be. For just the beginning of the Grayt Adventure, it sure seems to pack a lot of emotions with it. Good thing, we leave for the next chapter in less than two weeks. Maybe it will bring yet another perspective of the future. Only time will tell.

Nevada: More than “Snow-capped”

I never thought Nevada was anything but a desert with a big city, but little did I know…

Nevada. The word rolls off your tongue as if it were a fancy drink at some posh restaurant. In fact, the word simply means “snow-capped” which holds true to its form. Before coming to Nevada, I never thought much of the state. We all know about Las Vegas; the gambling, money, sex, drugs, and booze. A city in the middle of nowhere that never sleeps. We have heard of Reno, however many do not know why Reno is familiar, just that it exists. However, the actual state of Nevada is something that until now never inspired me. Never made me want to visit and explore. It was just a vast state in the middle of nowhere; on the way to somewhere with a city that never sleeps.

We left Idaho a day earlier than planned. The weather was not great and the kids were not enjoying the cold wind that swept across the reservoir. While we loved the Salmon Falls Dam, it was time to move on and go for another adventure. Shortly after starting our journey, we arrived in the quaint city of Jackpot, NV. It is the typical border town that you would think of, except here there were run-down casinos everywhere and restaurants that didn’t open until dinner time. A quick coffee and we were out on the open road, expecting less than an exciting journey. Personally, I was looking forward to a nice nap so when my husband asked if we could listen to a Joe Rogan podcast, I was all for the idea. Evelyn was quickly passed out in the back, Alexander was reading a book about plants and trees and Maggie was laying in my arms as though a child who I had rocked to sleep. However, instead of closing my eyes, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the landscape. The road separated the mountains so as we drove, I stared at the snow-covered hills colliding with beautiful fields that had just started to bloom. It was truly the beginning of spring and the countryside captured each moment with grace and beauty.

We ate lunch in yet another run-down town of Wells, Nevada. It was good cooking yet pricey for what we got. It may be the first time I saw a kids menu that was all over $10 at a diner. However, the service was nice and the break from driving was well worth the money.

As we got back on the road, I couldn’t help but think to myself what our time in Ely, Nevada would be like. We had booked a full three nights there and if it were anything like Wells or Jackpot, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it. However, my husband completely surprised me with a beautiful reservoir in Southern Idaho, so I had to trust that we would have a wonderful time no matter what.

We arrived in Ely around 4 pm. It was beautiful. The sun was out and the 70 degree weather was something that I cherished more than ever after a long winter in Idaho. Ely is tucked in an amazing valley that has views in every direction your eyes can wander. We had opted for a KOA campsite that turned out to be almost perfect. It had trails that the boys went mountain biking on. It had a park that the kids have played on each day. The service was wonderful and there was so much nature around that we knew we had plenty to look forward to. The next morning, the boys went mountain biking while Evelyn and I played around being lazy girls. We then ate lunch, packed up the truck and went to Cave Lake, just a short trip down the road. The weather was intermittent rain, but it didn’t slow us down at all. The lake was breathtaking. Its’ water was a turquoise color that made you wonder how nature could create it. There was a trail around the lake and the kids and Maggie ran freely, climbing and exploring the area. When we came back, the boys went to another lake to fish. It was the first time that Alexander actually became engrossed in the activity. Normally, he would fish for five minutes and be bored, but this time, he became obsessed and managed to bring home two brown trout.

Today, we decided to go for another adventure. I was a bit concerned since we actually woke up to snow. Yes… snow. Two days ago the temperature was 70 and sunny and today I woke up in the same place to massive snowflakes coming down. We bundled up and headed down the “Loneliest Highway in America” toward the Great Basin National Park. The clouds hung low as the snow continued to fall while we began our journey. After a few minutes, the snow turned to rain which eventually ceased, but the clouds still obstructed a lot of our view. On the way, I joked that there was no way anyone else would be at the park today because the weather should be a great deterrent. Then, out of nowhere, Daniel’s eyes opened wide and said “LOOK at THAT mountain!” I peered out my window into the distance. There was no mountain in view. Right as I was about to ask him what he was talking about, an enormous cliff appeared in the fog right before my eyes. As I stared in awe, the fog lifted and the remainder of the mountain range took shape. Sharp cliffs rose from the ground, peppered with pine trees and sage brush. The sun reflected off the new snow that was blowing off the peaks and the landscape transformed once again to an exciting wilderness that beckoned you to explore it. Never have I thought that something this beautiful existed in this state that I once believed to be only desert.

When we arrived at Great Basin National Park, we went to the Lehman Caves. We had a wonderful lunch that Daniel had packed for us and then waited for our cave tour. The kids completed a Junior Park Ranger book and were awarded their badges in front of the tour group who all were very receptive to them.

The caves were wonderful. There was so much to see and learn. The tour guide was quite accommodating to the children and very good at engaging the group. The Lehman Caves were founded over 100 years ago and to this day are still a great site to see. Learning about caves, stalagmites and stalactites in a book has nowhere near the same impact as seeing them in person. We all got “kissed by the cave” as water dripped on us and witnessed with our very eyes how over a million years ago, something as simple as water formed the natural wonders we are able to view today. It just proves that education doesn’t always have to be in the classroom.

Our Nevada trip has come to a conclusion. We are heading for southern Utah tomorrow. Fishlike National forest first, then Zion National Park and beyond. While we are leaving Nevada for now, many things will stick with me. I know not to underestimate any place before experiencing it. Seeing my son come back from a afternoon of fishing with his dad has carved a deep place in my memory and heart. Watching my daughter scale rocks like she is a (semi) pro shows me that while she is my baby, she is more than capable of handling herself. Finally, I realize that a simple element like water and a lot of time and patience can make everlasting beauty. Things like that help me see life in a whole new perspective. Maybe while I thought I should move fast or get instant results, that isn’t what Mother Nature has in store for me.  In all actuality, time and patience, love and courage, and most importantly faith is what I really need in order to be completely satisfied with this wonderful, crazy, perfectly insane life that is only mine.

Nevada. Never put all your trust into a name. It is a state capable of a lot more than just being “snow-capped”.

The Problem With Holidays

Why does our society encourage gluttony during the holidays instead of health?

As I am slowly diving into the world of Twitter, I have learned many things. While I  will wait to elaborate on all the lessons Twitter is throwing out there, the thing I have been focused on lately is the enormous amount of “holidays”. We just had National Dog Day, which was after National Siblings Day and today is one of my favorites so far: National Grilled Cheese Day. Yes, even two pieces of bread glued together with cheese has it’s own special holiday. I am amazed. While I am sure all of these made up holidays may actually boost a love between siblings and our pets or an increase in sales of grilled cheese sandwiches, is it really necessary? In fact, are most holidays all that necessary or good for us?

Take Easter for example. It is coming up on Sunday. Easter is one of the most confusing holidays in my book. Each year it is on a Sunday, but that day can be anywhere from March 22 to April 23. It is quite interesting the way it is determined: the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the March equinox. It is quite interesting to me because this means the day Jesus was resurrected changes EVERY year. Talk about confusing when you try to explain that to your kids.

Now, I understand the importance of Easter. I am not very religious but I do consider myself a Christian. It is probably the most symbolic day of the year for the Christian religions. So why let it be ruined but colored eggs, plastic grass and oversized plush animals hiding candy? It seems to make a mockery of this incredible day. In early times, new litters of rabbits were generally born in the time near Easter symbolizing new life, but is this really what the Christian church wants to hold on to?

Ask any kid on the playground at school about what their favorite part of Easter is. While many of them will know the reason behind Easter, their favorite part will not be attending church. It is not going to be learning about the sacrifices Jesus made for humanity and the incredible miracle that took place as he rose from his tomb. No. It is about the big egg hunt. The colored eggs. The candy. Easter has become a day where binging in chocolate and treats is more than acceptable; it is encouraged. Gluttony (one of the cardinal sins) is actually encouraged.

One of the hardest things I deal with while facing these holidays is how bad for our health these holidays are becoming. We eat very healthy. We limit our sugar intake, avoid junk food, teach our kids that things like squash, zucchini, spinach and broccoli are amazing to eat. However, the task of raising our children to avoid bad food is incredibly difficult when every store pushes it on us or people are continuously trying to hand candy to your kids. I even have people tell me that my children deserve a treat, another piece of chocolate, more candy.

In a country riddled with diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer, and addiction, shouldn’t we focus on healthier alternatives and a healthier lifestyle than a sugar-induced high? Shouldn’t we protect our children from a life of illness and teach them that when you are constantly indulging in treats, you are actually hurting yourself? Something as simple as a single Hershey kiss has 2.5 grams of sugar in it. Considering an ADULT woman’s recommended daily sugar intake should be no more than 25 grams of sugar, that small indulgence is a lot more than small. Ten pieces is the same as an entire day’s worth of sugar! And that is for an adult, not a child.

I’m not going to tell you that this Easter there will be no chocolate in our house. At this point, it is inevitable. Anywhere we go, candy is pushed at us but what I will tell you is that my children will learn about the true meaning of Easter, and when they awaken to the baskets the “Easter Bunny” left for them, they will have things such as new biking gloves and paints instead of chocolate and chick-shaped marshmallows. The best part about it is that they will be thrilled because treats don’t have to be edible.

One final word: please think before you offer someone else’s children candy. While the gesture is nice and thoughtful, it puts parents in a difficult position to turn it down in front of their children. It make the parent the bad guy for not allowing that sucker. Yes, it is a small treat, but think about how quickly one small treat escalates when everyone is doing it or when you look at the amount of sugar in that small treat. If you do feel compelled to give kids “treats”: things like stickers, pencils, erasers, and tiny trinkets are just as loved by kids and they serve a purpose in the home. Those things have more meaning to children than candy and it doesn’t affect their health. We are doing our best to raise our children to be healthy and we hope that you can support our decisions. While you may think they “deserve” that piece of chocolate, we feel that our kids shouldn’t be getting chocolate everyday or even every week. I am not asking for you to agree with that decision, but please respect us enough to allow us to make those decisions. Thank you.

 

Before the world goes dark

When the things you take for granted are taken away from you.

Imagine if you will. It is 7am. You are drifting in and out of consciousness, contemplating waking up when your four year old daughter lands on the bed. “Good moaning mom!” she exclaims, still not yet able to get that good “r” sound. She loves the mornings when she is one of the first ones up. She curls up next to you and starts coaxing you out from under the covers. “Mom! It’s moaning! The sun is shining! The birds are singing. The flowas are going to bloom today! You have to get out of bed!” Her giggles are contagious and uplifting, better that the coffee you can smell brewing in the kitchen. She snuggles her face up to yours, gently nudging like a puppy would do. You open your eyes. You can’t see her. And right at that moment, your heart drops and a tightness rises in your chest. You can’t see her.

You can’t see her expresso eyes glittering as the sun coming into the window hits them. You can’t see those chubby cheeks that you kiss at least fifty times a day. You know she is there, but she is hidden. You have been blinded in one eye with the very real possibility of being blinded all together. Today, you are able to roll over so the one good eye can see that beautiful miracle you made. But before you are able to think about how lucky you are that she is yours, you first have to push aside the fear that one day, that face may forever be hidden from you.

This is my story. Over the last few months, I have lost the eyesight in my right eye. My eyes constantly hurt with pain ranging from throbbing to stabbing pain. It is accompanied with other issues such as muscle weakness, fatigue, and body pain, but the loss of vision is the main issue that have the doctors struggling to find answers. I have been through more tests than I can count, yet we don’t have an answer for why I have lost half my sight or how much further it will go. As of the current moment, the doctors know I have some sort of autoimmune disease that is causing my body to attack itself, but autoimmune diseases are interesting in the fact that some are nearly impossible to diagnose or even figure out what can cure or at least slow it down.

Millions of people in this world suffer from autoimmune diseases. Some being very well known life Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, Type 1 diabetes. However, many are still random, unknown and not understood. It not only makes a person going through the process feel lost, but also a bit like they are losing their mind. There are days I can go all day without any issues (other than the whole blindness thing), and there are days where I feel like I am trying to workout while battling the flu. Days where naps are mandatory and even then, there is no energy flowing through my body. It’s perplexing, haunting, frustrating, and heart wrenching to say the least.

I have had to quit my job as a result of my loss of vision as well as the other physical tolls that this disease is having on me. I miss working. I miss the people, the job and the mission I was a part of. It is hard dealing with a constant sense of defeat, but I am not the type of person who settles and admits defeat. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful husband who has been there for me throughout this and is supporting me like no other. We decided to buy an RV. We took the kids out of school. We are traveling. We are seeing the world before the world goes dark. We are learning how to adapt.

My son is kind of like my seeing-eye kid. He walks on my right side everywhere we go and tells me what is on that side so I don’t bump into anything. He keeps me focused on the positive. My husband is devoted to finding a natural way for my body to heal itself. We are working on breathing, meditation, yoga. He reminds me not to stress myself out. He is understanding and encouraging. And then there is my daughter. Well, she is a bit too young to understand the concept of being sick. That’s what I like most. She pushes me to get out of bed. To open my eyes. To giggle and cuddle as much as possible. To go outside and see the “flowas” bloom.

The spring is here, it is a beautiful day. Let’s go out and see it.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification and the effects of having everything right at your fingertips.

America has become the land of instant gratification. We revolve in a world that allows you to make your coffee in under ten seconds, connect with anyone around the world with no delay, and even have items delivered by drones within a couple hours after ordering them. At restaurants, you see entire families staring at their phones; having multiple conversations with anyone and everyone but the ones right in front of them. Children are handed an iPad instead of waiting patiently or engaging with adults while they wait for their food. Even dining establishments offer games to play to keep their patrons occupied while they wait.

I remember as a child riding my bike to a friends house just to see if they were home and wanted to hang out. I sent letters to old friends and family. I stacked jelly packets at restaurants while waiting for the food to come. I got toys on my birthday and Christmas, but rarely any other days. The world was simple back then. And then the computer era happened and it made life easier, quicker. Better?

While all the technology sounds great, could it be that this technology is distracting us from what truly matters? Does instant gratification take away our ability to be content with what we have and enjoy the richness of life? Or is it simply numbing out minds; allowing our culture to become narcissistic and disabling any hope for lasting, physical relationships.

While I sit here any type this, I think of the effect technology has had in my life over the years. I look at my Facebook page. It is a love-hate relationship. I find it rather odd that I can say I have a relationship with a website, but in reality, that is exactly what it is. It provides me with an outlet to discuss things or vent if need be and satisfies a social desire. I hate the drama of it, yet, somehow I am still pulled in late at night as I scroll through the endless stories of friends and family. Sometimes it can actually make me feel useless or not good enough. I see friends buying lavish things that I envy, even though I have no need, use or even want for them. I hear about husbands constantly buying their wives gifts all the time or random vacations. While I love seeing my friends happy, there is a part of me that may start to doubt my own life, adventures or even my marriage.

Why do people so quickly hop from now relationship to the next? Why are we unable to work on our marriage like previous generations did before. I never remember hearing my grandparents air out their dirty laundry, but now, all of cyberspace is open to the drama and has more than just an opinion or two to offer. How can two people be a healthy couple when the world is involved in their private business?

Moving away from a traditional house and into an RV opened my eyes to the destruction of self gratification. As I make my coffee in the morning, using my teapot and french press, I genuinely await the delicious taste that is being developed. The act is no longer a mindless act of putting a K-cup into a Keurig, but instead there is a process. Just like that of a great BBQ. You can’t just throw a rack of ribs on the grill and expect them to be falling off the bone in one minute. You make it an all day event. It becomes the centerpiece and highlight of the day. The guys sit around and talk by the grill while the aroma spreads throughout the neighborhood. The children eagerly await the feast and when it is finally ready, everyone comes together to cherish in that moment.

Technology isn’t always bad. It does connect us to those in another world. It makes life easier and allows us to discover more than we ever thought possible. However, keep in mind, that this is the only life we have. We need to embrace the real moments and not just the digital ones. We need to put our phone away and pay attention to what is in front of us. We need to cherish the process; for without the processes, the moments are hardly worth remembering.