Monday, December 31, 2012

Oliebollen (gluten free, egg free, dairy free)

Oliebollen are a Dutch New Year's Eve tradition, but for years I've done without because a gluten free, egg free, dairy free version simply didn't exist. I minded but didn't think I could do anything about it.  Finding ways to make traditional recipes Joy-friendly was a challenge, especially when the traditional recipes were written in a language other than my own.  But this year, as my brother and cousins and husband went to Grandpa's house for oliebollen, and Littlest Brother and I stayed home (He can't have wheat either), I decided I would give the recipe search one more try.
I've discovered that by searching for vegan recipes I can find recipes that are egg and dairy free, even though I am by no means a vegan! (bacon wrapped dates are on the menu for later tonight) So I searched for a vegan Oliebollen recipe, and found one.  A few tweaks, and it was also gluten free.  An hour later, I was enjoying fresh Oliebollen, complete with corn-free icing sugar.

and the recipe...
1.5 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
3/4 tsp xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend already contains it)
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP sugar
4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1.5 cup warm (120-130*F) water (Hint: warmer than a baby's bottle, but not as hot as a hot shower)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
oil for frying
powdered sugar

How it works:
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
2. Add the warm water and lemon juice and mix until well blended
3. Cover with a tea-towel and set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes.
4. Heat the oil for frying.  You want it really hot.  We used our little deep fryer, though you could also use a pan with an ample amount of oil in it.
5. Spoon the batter in small amounts into the hot oil.  When one side is cooked (browned), turn the Oliebollen over to cook the other side.
6. Set on paper towels to drain.
7. Enjoy with powdered sugar

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Fun

In our family (meaning, in this case, my parents and siblings) we have a Christmas tradition in which each sibling comes up with a "to share" gift.  This gift is always edible and is cleared with mom beforehand to make sure we get food from all the food groups.  Then, as we open gifts on Christmas day, every so often we will open a "to share" gift and share it around. By the end of gift opening we are all quite full.
This year David and I decided we were doing veggies and dip.  But we didn't want to just do a veggie we did a veggie tree!
My favorite were the little yellow stars.  We made them using a Linzer tart cutter.  David cut out the big star for the top. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Grief

In seminary I took a course called "Pastor as Person".  It was a required course for all students and most of us took it in our second year. It was all about how being a person, a human being with feelings, emotions, and experiences, affected our pastoral identity. It affects how we preach and how we interact with people. All and all it was a very interesting class taught by a stellar professor. It came to mind this year as I sat in our Christmas Eve service at church.
I've never looked at Christmas through the eyes of a grieving mother before.  I couldn't.  Not before I became a grieving mother.  Sitting in church listening to the pastor talk about the hope and expectation of a baby, a tiny bundle of hope coming, hurt.  It hurt a lot. Listening to the pastor talk about labor and delivery, reminded me of the baby that I would not deliver.  And I wept.
I wept for my baby who was already home with Jesus and I wept for all the babies who weren't home with their mothers and fathers this year.  The babies who were called home far too early for our liking.
And I do you approach Christmas with a sensitivity to all that hurt?  How do you a preach a Christmas message of hope and new life to those who are mourning the loss of life?
These (and others) are questions I ponder as my pastoral identity continues to be shaped. These are questions that I hope I can keep in mind if and when I ever get called to lead a congregation on my own. Because Christmas should bring hope to everyone.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Throughout the month of November many of my friends have been posting daily "thankful" statuses on facebook or on their blogs, listing a different thing that they are thankful for every day, in no particular order. I was not that on top of things and didn't participate in the 30 days of thankfulness this year, so now I've decided to make a more cumulative posting of things that I am thankful for in no particular order.
1. I am thankful for my husband David.  He is super supportive and loving and I would not have gotten through these last few months without him by my side.
2. I am thankful for the beautiful hoar-frost outside my window this morning.  It's our first hoar-frost of the winter and it reminds of why I like winter.
3. My parents.  They have been super gracious about letting David and I live in the apartment attached to their house and finding work that we can do around the house so that we don't have to pay rent in a monetary fashion every month.  Without their generosity we would not be able to live in Canada.
4. I am thankful that David got accepted to Tyndale.  This will hopefully allow him to get a student visa and may streamline the immigration process.
5. I am thankful for my computer.  It allows me to stay connected with the outside world even when I can't get out. It even allows me to do some Christmas shopping online.
6. My team of doctors.  For the most part, they believe in me and aren't going to give up on me any time soon. Sometimes they even have answers for me as to what is wrong with me and know how to fix it.
7. Beans and rice.  On a limited budget we eat a lot of beans and rice.  I'm thankful that they are such a versatile dish and we can season them in many, many different ways.
8. Free health care.  With my health concerns, even in the past few months, I have been to the hospital/doctor many times. If we were living somewhere where we didn't have free health care, we would be bankrupt by now. Instead, the financial costs of my hospitalizations were something that we didn't have to worry about.
9. Facebook.  Yes, sometimes facebook can be addicting and I can waste too much time on it, but it allows me to stay connected with people I care about, stalk those who happen to cross my newsfeed, and even brings me occasional interesting news articles.
10. Advent. I love Advent.  Not as much as I like Lent and Easter, but still a lot.  I like the season of waiting and hoping and preparing.  I like the constant reminder of Advent that we are living in the "already, not yet" time.  Christ has already come once, but he has not yet come the second time.
11. My brothers.  Even though they can be annoying sometimes and don't always do what they know they are supposed to, they often do help out when I need them to do something that I either can't do or am simply too lazy to do myself, like blowing up my big exercise ball so I can bounce on it or move heavy boxes for me. On very rare occasions they'll even help without being asked.
12. Books.  Since I am not taking classes right now I'm enjoying a reprieve from academic reading and enjoying pleasure reading for the first time in many years. Reading books allows me to escape into a world of fantasy and fiction, even if just for a short time.
13. The public library.  Without the library I would not have access to hundreds of books for free. David and I go to the library every other week or so.
14. My parents' cars.  Because my parents are awesome they let us borrow their vehicles regularly. This allows David to take me to various appointments, grocery shopping, etc.
15. Modern medicine.  Even though I dislike taking drugs, I take a lot of them every day, just to keep me on an even keel, prevent seizure, help me sleep, keep my digestive system from having spasms, and make up for the vitamins and minerals that I don't get from food (ie: calcium).  And then there are my emergency medications such as my epi-pen that have saved my life more than once.
16. Traditions.  Traditions help keep some semblance of continuity and sameness, while allowing for variation.  Since this is David's and my first Christmas as married couple, we are developing some of our own traditions such as our beautiful Advent calendar that I picked up at Operation Christmas Child and giving our gifts on Dec. 6 instead of Dec. 25, and holding on to some older traditions from my family such as hanging brass ornaments in the window.
17.  A warm, dry place to live.  So many people in the world don't have that and David and I are blessed with ample room that is warm and dry.
19.  Church.  Even though I don't always see eye-to-eye with the institution of the church as set up by mankind, I am thankful for the Church as a whole - the body of believers that are the Church universal.
20. In the same vein as number 19, I am thankful that I am free to attend church without risk of prosecution.  I don't always make it to church as often as I'd like (mornings are sometimes rough for me and if I'm too tired I stay home), but I'm thankful that I have the option.
21.  Friends near and far. I don't mean just the "hi! How are you doing?" "Fine and you?" type friends, but the friends that let me be painfully real and honest and vulnerable with them and who do the same with me, even if it is only over facebook.
22. Alpacas.  Even though I sometimes don't want to get out of bed to take care of them in the morning my life would not be the same without these furry, wonderful creatures. Especially the babies.  They are always up to some sort of mischief or another.
23. Indoor swimming pools.  I love swimming.  If I had been born a fish I don't think I would have objected. Indoor pools let me swim year round.  I just wish there was one closer than an hour away!
24. Emma.  Emma is a horse that lives nearby that I am allowed to ride whenever I please. The only condition is that I brush her before and after. She provides much relaxation to me.
25. Easter.  Easter is my favorite holiday of all.  I start counting down for Easter as soon as Easter is done. I love the gospel of Easter so much!

That's all for tonight.  I'm getting sleepy and my fingers are hitting the wrong keys more often than the right ones...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three Months

Well, David and I have made it to the three month mark.  And what can I say?  I am incredibly blessed to have him in my life. A lesser man would have turned tail and ran when faced with the challenges that we have had these first three months, but David has stuck by my side through it all.  Every time I was in the hospital he was right there with me, as much as the hospital would let him be.  On the days I didn't have the energy or the ability to tie my own shoes, he tied them for me.  So basically this post is a public shout-out to how awesome my husband is. Because he is amazing and I am so blessed to be married to him.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The other day my husband lamented to me that no matter where he goes, as soon as he steps out of our apartment, people are asking him whether or not I am better.  I understand his frustration.  I get it too.  Everyone wants to know if I'm better.  But there's a problem with that question.  It begs a return question of "better than what?"   Better than I was last summer when I could drive out to Mapleton Organic and ride Emma to my heart's content?  Better than I was when I was in the hospital hooked up to a morphine drip for pain following my TIAs?  Better than yesterday when I had energy to actually do stuff?  Better than three days ago when my energy was so low I was nearly catatonic?  Better than you?
Basically questions about my well-being that include the word "better" are useless.  I'd say this goes for just about anyone living with a chronic illness and/or mental illness.   I get it.  You're concerned and want to show your concern.  Or you're curious.  Or you're just plain nosey.  Whatever.  But using the word "better" won't get you anywhere.
If you really want to know, if you really, genuinely are inquiring about the state of my health or well-being, try rephrasing your questions.  Ask specific questions.  Ask how I'm doing.  Ask whether today is a good day or a bad day.  Ask if I've gotten any sleep the last few days.  Ask, then accept it if I don't feel like answering.  Because I can sniff out just plain nosey pretty quickly.   But please, don't ask me if I'm better.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4 years...

Four years ago I sat in my college dorm room talking to a friend online.  Suddenly the room felt funny.  I told my friend that I didn't feel very good.  That was the last thing I said to her.  When I didn't come back online or respond to her messages she called a mutual friend who lived in my building (the friend I was talking to lived across campus) and asked her to check on me.  The friend who lived in my building found me on the floor of my dorm room, in a semi-conscious state.  What we didn't know then was that I had just had my first seizure. All we knew for sure was that my head hurt and I was tired.  I went to bed and my friend checked on me frequently throughout the night.  (What can I say?  I have some pretty awesome friends). 
The next day, when hanging out with some friends I had a seizure.  It was witnessed and there was no doubt as to what it had been.  We headed to the hospital and my journey began.
The initial prognosis was not good.  The initial scans of my brain showed a spot that they believed to be a tumor and a very large blood vessel that they thought was going to explode.  I was told that I was living on borrowed time. The large blood vessel in my brain shouldn't be that large and they figured it would rupture sometime soon.  I was started on anti-seizure drugs as well as painkillers (I had a wicked headache that would last for months).
I was referred to specialist after specialist and my life consisted of waiting for appointments and getting conflicting reports from them. In between, I had seizures, often half a dozen or more a day, and I slept.  
Four years later a lot has changed. In the summer of 2011 we finally got a solid ID as to what Spot is. I'm on medication that controls the seizures for the most part, and have adapted to life with seizures, as well as anyone could. 
But there are things that they don't tell you about living with a chronic illness. They don't tell you how it will impact every aspect of your life.  If affects where your go or don't go for school.  It affects whether or not your can work and if you can work it affects what kind of work you can do. It affects your family.  It affects your mate. In short, it affects everything. 
Over the years I've tried to explain to people how it affects me.  The best explanation I've found so far is something call the "Spoon Theory".  I encourage you to click on the link and read it.  It applies not only to how the seizures affect me, but also to how my mental illness affects me.  Both limit the number of spoons I get each day. 
Four years ago I had no idea where I'd be. I have no idea where I'll be four years from now. 
But that is life. And that is my life.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I mentioned in my last post that I might post about my stay in the Emergency Mental Health Unit.  I've decided to do so.  I did all the writing just to process on my own, so sharing isn't hard. It's long and not necessarily pretty, but it is truth.

They’d told me I was being moved to a different hospital, but if anyone had bothered to tell me where, I hadn't heard or it simply hadn't registered in my still drug-confused brain.  I knew an ambulance was coming for me and it was taking me away.  My husband would follow in the van with my belongings.  I lay propped up in the back of the ambulance shivering under the thin sheet, watching the rain fall outside the windows, occasionally glimpsing my husband’s van as he followed.  I didn't even know what day of the week it was.  About halfway to the hospital my hearing aids made their pleasant little noise that informed they were about to die altogether.  By the time we got to the hospital I had two dead batteries and no replacements.  The world around me became a mixture of muffled sounds.  My head hurt, I was tired, I was scared, and I was confused.  I knew enough that I figured they were taking me somewhere where I could get more help – I couldn't have been more wrong.
We stopped outside the hospital and my husband handed me my stuffed bunny, Sampson.  I clutched him tightly to my chest, shivering with fear just as much as with the cold dampness from outside.  The paramedics led me inside, down a dark hallway.  They stopped outside a door.  There was a sign outside the door, but I didn't get a chance to read it before the door was opened.  I was gestured inside while a scowling nurse plucked Sampson from my arms.  “He’s not allowed here.”  I started to cry.  I wanted my husband.  I was told I could see him later.
A nurse handed me a gown and pointed towards the bathroom.  “Change in there.”
I obeyed, stripping down to my underwear and putting the lightweight, three-holed hospital gown on.  I was shivering again.  Or perhaps, I was still shivering.  I couldn't remember having stopped.  I came out of the bathroom and stood, feeling half naked in the hallway until a nurse pointed towards an open door.  A room, with a bed and two chairs, bolted together to a table.  No windows except for one narrow one along the top that I couldn't see out.  I sat on the bed.  A nurse came in to ask some questions.  I was frustrated and scared so I started signing instead of just talking.  She mocked my signing and then walked out on me as I tried to explain that my hearing aid batteries were dead.  I never did hear what she said as she walked away.
I sat alone in the room, unsure of what to do next.  There was a blanket folded at the end of the bed.  I unfolded it and wrapped it around myself, trying to get warm again.  A sense of panic was growing in me like a vine that takes over a wall and pulls it apart to nothing.  I started to scratch at my arms, clawing at them, trying to gain some sort of control back.  If I could somehow feel again, if I could control that one little part of my body, then maybe I would survive this.
Finally I saw my husband coming through the same door I had come through an indeterminate amount of time earlier.  I wanted to run to him and hug him, but I was afraid to leave my room.  He came in and I hugged him for what seemed like forever.  He immediately noticed bloody spots on my arms where I had clawed at myself. He kissed me gently as I wept and shivered.  I told him about my dead hearing aid batteries and he went off on a mission to get me new ones.
While I was grateful to know that new batteries were on their way, I was terrified of being left alone again.  I continued to scratch at my arms and rock back and forth on the bed, trying to find a way to calm myself down.   I don’t know how long it was before my husband returned – there was no clock for me to look at and they had taken my watch away – but the new batteries were a welcome sight.   Seeing my intense distress he asked the nurses if I might have my stuffed bunny.   I didn't hear the whole conversation, but the answer was negative.  Sampson would not be allowed to join me, no matter how great my distress.   My husband was able however to get me a pair of sweat pants to wear under my hospital gown and provide a small amount of warmth.
A nurse offered me a sandwich and seemed confused as my husband and I tried to explain that I couldn't have it because of my multiple food allergies – all of which were clearly listed on my chart. I had some snack food in my possessions and that was what I was given for my supper.  I would meet with a dietician sometime the next morning to discuss meals.
I cried when they told me that my husband had to leave.  I begged them to let me have my bunny. They refused.  I spent the night clutching my pillow to my chest and crying as I rocked back and forth on the hospital bed.    No one had bothered to have a conversation with me yet as to why I was in this place, what the plan was, what the rules were or what was expected of me.  I don’t remember ever having felt so alone in my life.
A dietician came to meet with me sometime before lunch and we went over my allergy list.  I emphasized over and over again that these were severe allergies.   When the dietician was done with me it was time for me to meet with the psychiatrist.  He was a big man with a lot of facial hair, making his lips almost impossible to read.  Thankfully my charts had been sent over from the last hospital I’d been in and I didn't have to go through every painful detail again.  Unfortunately, this also meant that assumptions were made and questions that should have been asked weren't.
By the time the doctor was done with me, my lunch was waiting in my room, getting cold.  My stomach was starting to growl, having had nothing of any substance since noon of the previous day.  I recognized steamed vegetables, rice and some sort of meat in sauce and dug in.  Halfway through my meal I slowed down enough to pay attention to what was in my mouth.  The unfamiliar texture and taste of pineapple played over my tongue.   I shook off the warning bells blaring in my head.  Surely they wouldn't feed me pineapple.  I had met with the dietician mere hours before and pineapple was listed as one of my most severe allergies.  I must be mistaken.
Not much time had passed after lunch when I began to feel the all too familiar itching and swelling of my tongue and lips.  There was no denying it anymore.  There had been pineapple in my food and I was going to pay the price.  I went to the nurses’ station and asked for some Benadryl, hoping to avoid a shot of epinephrine.  They didn't have any, but would call down to the emergency room and see if they could get some.   My heart sank as my blood pressure dropped.  I didn't have that kind of time left.  I asked for my Epi-pen and as the nurse unlocked the medicine chest I slid down the doorframe to the floor in a semi-conscious stupor.  My Epi-pen was handed to me and I administered the medication, wincing not only with the pain of the spring loaded injection, but also with the thought that my husband and I now had to replace a $100 Epi-pen – an expense that we simple couldn't afford.
A doctor came and briefly listened to my lungs.  He never spoke a word to me, never examined the rash that was spreading across my stomach, never asked me about previous reactions and treatments.   “Take her to her room” were the only words I heard him speak and they weren't even directed towards me.  In terror I allowed two nurses to help me back to my bed.  I knew I needed Benadryl and steroids and quickly – epinephrine would only stay in my system for about fifteen minutes, if the other drugs hadn't been introduced by then, I’d be right back where I started.   I focused on keeping my breathing calm and making the most of every breath I took in.  Finally a nurse brought me a dose of Benadryl.  I was too desperate to protest the bright pink tablets – I knew the food dye would trigger another reaction, but I counted on the Benadryl to counteract itself and prayed that there was also a dose of steroids on the way.  Sure enough 50mg of Prednisone followed after a long while and I drifted off into a drugged sleep.  My last thought? I have to see the allergist in a week and I’m not supposed to have anti-histamines in the week prior…so much for that.
I awoke to my husband standing over me.  As I fought my way through the drug-haze back to full consciousness I told him what had happened.  He burned with anger.  He came to lie down in my bed beside me, to cuddle me as he had the night before. No sooner had we gotten comfortable than a nurse came and yelled us – telling us it was against the rules for him to lie on my bed.  He protested, saying that he had spent a couple hours lying with me the day before.  It did no good.  The nurse had made up her mind. He would not be allowed to provide me with the physical comfort of his touch.
When my supper came we examined it with a critical eye.  I ate only what was clearly recognizable as “safe” – the fresh fruit they had sent.  He ate rest of it and left briefly to get me a pizza.  We weren't taking any more chances with hospital food.
I had been in the hospital for 24 hours and nothing had happened, except for the severe allergic reaction.  I was not sure how this hospital was supposed to be helping me.  The nurses had made no attempt to talk to me about what had brought me to the hospital, to comfort me, or to help me straighten my thoughts out.  I had seen no counselor and had been given no indication of any steps I could take to help myself.  I felt like a criminal in a jail cell, unsure of what my crime was.
I spent another lonely night in my cell, as I had taken to calling my room.   My brain danced all over the place in a Prednisone induced frenzy.  The lights were never shut off in my room and try as I might I could not get any sleep.  Even the dose of Benadryl that they gave me around midnight did nothing to put me to sleep.
After a sleepless night they brought me more Benadryl.  I protested – I didn't want it and I knew I didn't need it.  I’d walked the road of anaphylaxis many times before and I was out of danger…medication would only be needed if I got worse.  I was beyond the point where I needed it every six hours, especially with my allergist appointment coming up.  My protests fell on deaf ears and I was given the meds anyway.  I seriously considered “cheeking” the Benadryl and disposing of it down the toilet as soon as the nurse left, but decided that since I still hadn't been discharged I should be the model compliant patient.
Breakfast came.  I examined it and turned away a bowl of cornflakes…corn was also listed as one of my allergies. I ate some fresh melon and some grapes and drank small cups of orange and apple juice.  It did little to still the hunger in my stomach.  I lay back on my bed and began to rock, hoping to ignore the hunger pangs until my husband could come in the afternoon.  After a time I was told I could shower.  I hadn't had a real shower in almost a week and the hot water felt heavenly pounding against my body.  Even better, I was allowed to change out of my hospital gown and into my own clothing.  I felt slightly more human.
Soon I was escorted back to the small room where the psychiatrist would see me. I made my case for going home and won.  The sense of relief that flooded me was nearly palpable. I would be leaving this hell.  I was terrified of going home, but I was more terrified of staying.  If I had been broken when I arrived at the hospital, I was completely crushed in spirit by now.  Since I wasn't allowed access to my Blackberry, a nurse called my husband to let him know I was being discharged.  I went back to my cell to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Lunch came and it went the same way as breakfast.  I ate a little bit of fruit and sent the rest back.  My stomach was cramping down on itself in hunger, but I knew that my husband would arrive soon.
A nurse came in to go over my discharge orders with me.  I pointed out an error she had made and she had to go back and change it.  Maybe I shouldn't have been so picky, but there’s a difference between not changing my medication at all and tripling my dosage.  I wanted written record of it so that if my charts weren't passed over to my family doctor in a timely manner for continued care, I could still get the medication I needed.
Finally my husband showed up.  We reclaimed my belongings.  They gave me my remaining Epi-pen (I had two of them when I came to the hospital) and told me that that was all the medication I had come in with.  My husband and I both protested, saying that I had also brought my inhaler with me.  The nurses argued saying I hadn't.  Finally we opened up my bags and pulled out my blue rescue inhaler, showing them that it had indeed been with me when I came in.  I shuddered to think of what would have happened if I had needed it while I was in the hospital. I wouldn't have had access to it and no one would have believed me that I brought it in – because they had searched my belongings.
We gathered up my belongings, including my inhaler and left.  I was so glad to be out of that place, that if I had had the energy I would have done a little dance.
Hospitals are supposed to be helpful places, but this one was more traumatizing than anything else.  I’m still waiting to be able to sleep nights again, and my husband is waiting for me to stop rocking in internal pain.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Walking the Broken Road

This isn't an easy post to write, so I'm just gonna get some stuff out of the way before I start.
1. I'm writing this to try and quell gossip and rumors and general untruths.  In my experience the best way to fight gossip is to put the truth out there in an indisputable way.
2. I am not looking for pity or sympathy or anything like that.  I simply want the truth out.
3. Nor do I need anyone telling me that I was a failure, that I should have prayed more or sought after G-d more...My inner critic does that enough.
4. This post would be easier to write if I were writing about a broken arm or broken leg or having cancer, but that's not what I've been given to write about.  What I do have to write about is the horrible truth that on Sunday night I broke the one promise I said I would never break - I tried to end my own life.

Nothing happens overnight and neither did this.  As any of you know who have been reading my blog for awhile there were a lot of huge changes...getting married, moving, new school, etc, etc.  Kinda sorta big things that were causing me to feel a little out of control. Then an "oops" happened.
David and I got pregnant.  I've been on Depakote to help control my seizures and if there is one thing to know about Depakote is that Depakote and babies don't mix.  At all.  So as soon as we knew we were expecting I started coming off the Depakote, and coming off it fast. What I didn't know was that Depakote was also a mood stabilizer.  Coming off of it quickly threw my moods for a loop.  I was up and I was down and I was all over the place.  Then, just before Thanksgiving, we lost the baby.   Enter crazy hormone adjustments from loosing a pregnancy.
Things got bad and I went to my family doctor and through a long and round about course of events I was admitted to a psychiatric facility and spent about a week there.  However, during the long and round about course of events my anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication, Cipralex (Lexapro) was completely discontinued and I was not started on my new one (Zoloft) until 2 days before I was released from the facility.
The dose I was on was very low and very ineffective. And Zoloft is an SSRI, which means it comes with the black box warning that the risk of suicide increases during the initial adjustment phase, especially in teenagers and young adults. Three days after I was released from facility #1 I swallowed three bottles of pills, with the intent of going to sleep and never waking up.
It was no one's fault and no one could have stopped me. It was a decision that I made.
David found me shortly afterwards and him and my dad took me to the hospital.  I don't remember anything after that until about 2-3 days later.  Once I was medically stable I was transferred to the Emergency Mental Health Unit (EMHU) in Guelph, which in general was just a bad idea (there may or may not be a blog post on that subject alone later).  EMHU actually did more harm than good for me and everyone agreed that it was in my best interest to be discharged today.
My meds have been increased to a more effective dosage and precautions are in place to keep me from doing anything stupid if my moods go crazy again.  I'm set up with a counselor and lots of follow-up.   I have dropped out of school for the semester as it was just getting to be more than I could handle.  We'll see next semester if I try again. Or maybe next year.
That's where I've been and what's been going on.  If you want to be supportive, please pray.  Pray especially for my husband. Pray for our marriage.  It's really been through the wringer.   If you ask me how I'm doing, be prepared for the truth...and for the fact that the truth might not be very pretty. Be respectful if I don't want to talk or need some space. But most of all, be willing to be there, to pray and to listen and maybe even wipe some tears.
I've got a long road ahead of me and I'm going to do my best to walk it.  It will be slow, it will likely be painful.  But it's the road I have to walk.

Bluntly yours,
Joellen Ayala

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back to Wedding Pictures

A shot of the front

Exchanging rings

The very first awkward kiss

Pouring the sand for the unity candle

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


There will be more wedding pictures posted, but for now, there is an interlude accompanied by a prayer request.
On Saturday evening, while I was at my seminary retreat, my brain did a major funny.  I knew something was off because I had slept all day.  David would get me up for meals, I'd eat and go right back to sleep.  Finally I managed to stay up after supper for a session and then campfire.   Towards the end of session I was gripped with an incredible headache.  Worse than I'd ever had before.  It had me curled up on the ground crying and rocking it hurt so bad.  After a time I managed to get it to the background (3 extra strength Tylenol helped) and went on to enjoy s'mores and the campfire.
Part way through the campfire I remember telling David he had to put me on the ground (I was sitting on his lap).  That was my last conscious memory.  I went on to have 5 seizures.  I'd come to in between and then go out again.  I had three grand mal or tonic clonic seizures and 2 focal or absent seizures.  One of my seminary friends is a paramedic and she was right there the whole time.  Apparently my blood pressure went wonky and for a brief time they lost my radial pulses.
All in all it led to an ambulance call and a trip to the hospital where they discovered I had extreme weakness in my left side. I was admitted overnight for observation and a CT scan. My headache also returned and the very nice doctor prescribed me morphine for the pain.  It's amazing how good a little bit of morphine can make you feel.
None of the testing they did in the hospital showed anything remarkable and I was released Sunday just before lunch.  Sunday passed uneventfully.
Monday however I woke up with lots of chest pressure and difficulty breathing.  It was back to the hospital with me.  My headache also returned.  This hospital wasn't as nice and would only give me Tylenol for my headache and it didn't help.  Again, despite all their testing they could not find the root cause.  Increased some of my asthma meds to help with the breathing and prescribed something for the headaches and sent me home.
At bedtime the headaches struck again with a vengeance, bring tears to my eyes and rocking.  The meds the doctor prescribed did nothing to ease the pain.  Tylenol wouldn't touch it.  Mom found me some other painkillers and they finally knocked me out.
I woke up this morning and managed to stay up for about 15 minutes before the sweats and chills took over and I felt like passing out.  Rest of the morning was spent in bed.
Now I'm off to yet another doctor.  Prayers for answers and relief from the pain and extreme tiredness would be appreciated.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

...and coming....

Gracie Jo carrying in the unity candle

Jude stealing the show.  He's cute and he knows it. 

Papa walking me down the aisle.

David and I at the altar...breathe in, breathe out....

Saturday, September 15, 2012

And they just keep coming....

Reuben "escorting" Grandma down the aisle

Grandpa carrying his jar of sand in for the unity candle

Paul carrying his jar in

My mom with our family candle

David's mom with his family candle.

Even more wedding photos...

And some more...
A very fast change of my earrings since the right ones got left at home and someone had to run back and get them. 
yummy cake.  Actually I can only personally vouch for the taste of the little one with blue flowers, but I'm sure the other was good too. 

Sister Ashley playing the piano.  The music there is Isaac's music, not her's.  She's just that amazing and I was honored to have her play at the wedding.

Would you like a bulletin???  Levi and Silas were my (junior) ushers. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

More Wedding pictures

Here's more wedding photos
I am making faces at Katie.  I'm not sure what is going on with my veil/hair

This is Katie.  I was making faces at her to make her smile.

Gracie-Jo was my junior bridesmaid.  She's adorable. 

Jude was our ring bearer.  He pretty much stole the show with he cuteness.  My friend Mariah W. made the pillow for us.

Married (with photos)

My last post was a week before I got married.  The last 4 weeks have been incredible.  So many changes, so much happiness.   The wedding and reception went off with only a few minor hitches...the pastor forgot to tell us when we could kiss and we kinda just looked at each other going "is this the part where we kiss?" and the person who was supposed to unlock the reception site never showed up so my dad just cut the gate open. The weather was wonderful and everyone had a great time.
Our honeymoon was great too, but that's a whole 'nother story for another time.  What everyone really wants to see is wedding pictures....
Wedding bands

The boys and Sarah Elizabeth (and Talia) hard at work in the caboose making supper

Getting my veil arranged

Set up for a wedding

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Week

It's been over a month since I managed to get a post up...things have been busy.  But no excuses tonight. More important stuff is on my mind.
One week from right now, there will be a new ring on my left hand.  I will no longer be a Miss, but a Mrs.   I will no longer belong just to myself, but will be a wife, forever joined to my husband.
One week from tonight, I begin a lifetime commitment.
It's kinda a big deal.  A year ago I never would have imagined this happening, but here it is, happening.
I ask those of you who pray to pray for us.   Pray for this final week as we prepare...there is so much that needs done yet.   Pray for my health - I've got a nasty sore throat/cough/sinus thingy going on.  Pray for my dad's health - he got a nasty infection in his leg and while it is healing nicely it still bothers him a fair bit by the end of the day.  Pray that we keep our focus on the important things and don't get overwhelmed by all the details.  Pray that G-d will bless our marriage.

One week from today....I'll be Mrs. Ayala.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Alpaca pictures

I'm the queen of the mountain!

Baby Charm

Baby Charm after she had a few days to perk up (she had some difficulties at first)

Baby Tiffany lounging in the straw

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seizure and Wedding News

Just because I haven't posted in awhile doesn't mean that things haven't been happening.  It actually means that too much has been happening and I haven't had time to sit down and write!
We haven't had any more babies since the pictures I've already posted, but should have some soon.  Reglisse is already at 360 days, and Atarah isn't far behind her.  They are both first timers though, so it's hard to say for sure.  I'll post pictures as soon as those babies get to the outside!
And now for some pictures of another sort.  I captured these just before dinner tonight.
201 days without a seizure.  We have started tapering me off of one of my seizure medications and so far I'm doing great without it.  It will be a long slow taper and there are no promises that it will work, but for now, I'm optimistic.  Prayer point for this: that I continue to remain seizure free and that the taper goes well with no  adverse side effects. 

And the wedding is 2 months away.  2 months.  AHHHH!  that scream is both excitement, nerves, and everything else.  Prayer point for this:  David is still not able to get here due to some visa issues.  Prayers that that clears up would be great.

And that's all for now.  It's bed time. 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Alpaca Babies!

Atlas' First Dance (boy)
Cashew's Cantor (boy)
Atlas' Confetti with her mom Serafina (girl)
Daniel's Devotion (girl)

These babies were all born sometime in the last two weeks or so. So far they are all doing well.  Devotion and Cantor will need some extra watching. Cantor's mom only has a partially functioning udder, and Devotion's mom has an extra teat so she's at higher risk for mastitis.  The extra teat will also make it harder for Devotion to latch on, putting her at risk for not enough milk.

We have more moms ready to go any day now, so as long as the weather stays nice, we should have more soon. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Reasons to Rejoice

The last couple of days have brought reasons to rejoice and they have almost been forgotten in the busyness of everyday life on the farm.  So now, before I let sleep overtake me, I'll share.

Sunday, for the first time ever, I took full communion in my home church. Previously I had only taken the juice and let the bread pass me by due to my severe allergies.  Sunday we did communion differently, and after working with the pastors, we got something worked out so that I, and others with wheat/gluten/allergy issues, could participate. It was wonderful.  What made me feel even better about it was that there were guests in our congregation who required gluten free communion and we were able to offer it to them. That made me happy.

Also, depending on how you count months, Sunday was the "short" (180 days) 6 month mark of seizure free-ness. Today is the "long" (the 28th of May) 6 month mark of seizure free-ness.  Either way, it's been 6 wonderful months without seizures.  Praise the Lord.
That's a solid 6 months, no matter how you count it.

I get married in 80 days. That's another reason to rejoice.  Now if I could just get everything planned in time...80 days.  That doesn't seem like very long anymore.  It feels like even shorter when I put it into weeks (11ish weeks) or months (2.5ish). But it will be wonderful.

Now, sleeping time, which is another reason to rejoice in and of itself!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I stood in front of the kitchen window in my apartment, looking out over the sunny courtyard and squishing cheese cracker dough between my hands and laying it out on the cookie sheets, watching the time, making sure the crackers would all be through the oven in time for my 2pm meeting, and that’s when it hit me square between the eyes.  I am an adult.
I don’t know when it happened.  I don’t know how it happened.  But I do know that it happened.  Sure as the sun was shining in the sky, sure as the robins were walking through the grass, I was an adult.
It hadn’t happened when I hit that magical number of 18 and was allowed to take my Girl Scouts places by myself (as long as I didn’t drive!). It hadn’t happened when I graduated high school and took a group of preteens overseas, though I was often expected to act like an adult and make adult decisions.  It didn’t happen at any point during college, no matter what life through at me, and it certainly didn’t happen on the day I walked across the stage and received my college diploma.  Yet somehow it still happened.
Here I am, an adult.

As I reflected on that I wondered what it meant. What does it mean to be an adult?  I looked it up in my dictionary (ie: I typed it into an online dictionary…same thing really...just don't type the word "Adult" into your search engine by itself...) and found these three definitions for the noun form:
1: a person who is fully grown or developed or of age.
2.a full-grown animal or plant.
3.a person who has attained the age of maturity as specified by law.
None of them really seemed to fit what was happening in me at that moment.  I had been full-grown for some time.  I had reached my full height in the 7th grade, much to my disgust. I did develop a little more after that as my body went through changes, but for sure by the end of high school I was fully grown...but yet I wasn't an adult then. Definition 2 simply didn't apply, as I am neither plant nor animal.  And the 3rd definition...well, I had reached that age a long time ago.  So what was it?

I think for me, the realization that I am now an adult, is a combination of the fact that major life changes are headed my way. I'm leaving school before finishing it because I want to switch to another school.  No one is forcing me, no one is saying no.  I'm also getting married.  Yeah.  Married.  Kids don't get married. But that still doesn't seem like all of it.  But it's for sure a part of it.
I'm changing schools, I'm getting married, I pay bills, I buy groceries, I go to meetings, I sometimes clean my house…I guess all these things make me an adult.

But there is part of me that doesn't want to be an adult yet, and a part that I hope never becomes an adult.  It's the part of me that keeps dreaming, keeps hoping, keeps creating.  It's the part of me that for a time can put aside the worries and cares of this world and dance.  That can stop and smell the flowers just because, that is free to be me.

Children are free like that.  Did you ever stop to watch children play on a playground?  The don't look around, always watching their backs to see who is following them, worrying about what comes next, the play with pure abandon, making friends with whoever seems to be there, living into the moment.  That's the part of me, the part that I want to keep as a child forever.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back in Canada

Did you miss me?  Between exams (both school exams and classis exams), my cousin getting married, moving back to Canada, planning a wedding, and battling a nasty tongue and ear infection that has led to mild dehydration and malnutrition, I have been notably absent from my blog.  I cringed today when I realized it had been almost a month since I posted anything and my last posts were just photos! I have nothing profound to offer today, except that I am alive, I am back on the farm and will be until the wedding. I'll be working with Mom at the Mill for a few hours a day and other than that I'll be preparing for the wedding and working around the house.  Maybe I'll even get a chance once in awhile to post here.  I'm still needing a lot more sleep than I'd like to need, but hopefully as I overcome these infections, that will get better.
That's about it for today.  Hopefully a more profound post comes soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Engagement Pictures Part 3

If you still want more...

Engagement Photos, part 2

In an effort not to over-stress your web browsers, here comes part 2.

Engagement Pictures

While I was in Iowa back in April...(okay, it's still April, but the first week of April seems forever ago) a good friend of mine took some engagement pictures for David and I.  I got them today (actually David got them, posted them in a secret place on Facebook, and then I got them off Facebook).  For your viewing pleasure: