Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love: Personality Plus!

I LOVE personality tests. When I picked up one of the teen fashion/love/whatever magazines growing up, I always loved taking the quizzes. That carried over into my college years and in my communication major I had the pleasure of taking a lot of quizzes about myself. I now realize that, while knowing about my own personality is important, it is so much more important to know more about the personalities of those I love.

A lot of time and money has been spent on personality research with varying results; however, it is almost universally understood that different personality types have different needs. Those needs make it so much more important to know about the personalities of those we love. If we know their personality type and know what their needs are, we can make a conscious effort to give them what they need when we interact with them. I am always most interested in introvert vs. extrovert, especially considering I grew up very close to my introvert brother and then married an introvert. I am off the charts on extrovert, so opposites definitely attract!

A friend of mine posted a helpful quiz on Facebook today (thanks, Kimberly!) and I thought I would pass it along. It is a personality quiz based on the Myers-Briggs (an abridged version) and can tell us so much about ourselves. Here is a link to the test:

Once you have identified yourself or others in your life as introverted or extroverted, the information below should be helpful!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pray, Love: Every Good and Perfect Gift

"No, mama! I want the big present!"

This was the request of my 3 year-old daughter just seconds before she threw herself onto the floor in a fit of jealousy over her daddy's Valentine's present. I had picked her up from school as soon I finished my work day, then headed home so our family could exchange Valentines. She had a card, a small box of candy and a little gift bag containing something from Mommy and Daddy waiting for her on the coffee table. I had small box of candy, a card and a small jewelry-sized box waiting for me. Doug, however, had a big gift bag and a big box of candy to open and Lily just could not get over the fact that she did not get to open the big gift.

When the crying finally ended and she took a little time to cool off, Lily finally opened her gift. It was a necklace that she loved, complete with Hello Kitty holding a heart. Daddy's gift, on the other hand, was an iPod/iPhone/iPad dock, something she had absolutely no interest in possessing.

It's easy to look at the tantrum of a 3 year-old and laugh, particularly about the fact that preschoolers judge packages by size rather than content. I rolled my eyes and told Lily just how silly she was acting, but when I thought about it later I realized that I do the exact same thing on a much larger scale.

Jealousy is a spiritual poison, a catalyst for hatred and discord. Jealousy motivated Cain to murder Abel. (Genesis 4:1-8) Jealousy caused Joseph's brothers to justify selling him into slavery. (Genesis 37:18-36)  Jealousy drove Saul to hunt David in an attempt to end his life. (I Samuel 18:8-9) Jealousy prevents me from being the Christian I am called to be. Jealousy keeps me from appreciating the many blessings in my life, blessings that flow daily.

I look at those around me and sometimes find myself wishing I could trade blessings with them. I see their gift all wrapped up, and the package is bigger and prettier than the one I'm holding. I have a mature moment where I ask God to help me overcome the jealousy I am feeling, then I spend the rest of my time and energy being envious and pretending to be happy for them. I think the temptation of jealousy is greater today than ever before. We have social media at our fingertips and we love to post our blessings for others to see. We begin to build up certain expectations for our own lives based on the "pretty gifts" we are seeing in someone else's life. We become discontented. We become ungrateful. We become jealous. We become ineffective in the kingdom of God.

Why do we doubt God's wisdom in giving us these gifts and blessings in our lives? He knows just what we need and he gives us what is good.

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:11

God tells us he will give us the things we need, but so often we are begging for something different. Just as I knew the contents of Lily's gift bag, God knows the blessings He is giving us; God's blessings are exactly what we need. I pray I can do a better job of being thankful for gifts given to me, knowing the contents are as perfect as the Creator who has given them.

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pray, Love: Being Still

Still. Quiet. It's that special time of day when my husband and daughter are in bed and it is just me, reflecting on the day. I am so tired after a long day, but this quiet time is something I will gladly take advantage of in lieu of sleep. I spent years running from the quiet, but now I savor it.

This by no means makes me an introvert. I have taken the Meyers-Briggs personality type indicator many times beteween trainings for work and college classes. I have experienced some changes in some of my ratings, but I am always off the charts on the "E". The first indicator rates you as either an extrovert or introvert and my sky-high score as an extrovert leaves no doubt that I love people. I get my energy from being with others, my husband and daughter included, and I am a person who really needs people.

That being said, I am so thankful to sit in this quiet house and spend time in reflection and thought. I will give thanks for a Godly, hardworking husband. I will give thanks for an adorable child with a giant smile and sweet personality. I will give thanks for the caring family with which I have been blessed. I will give thanks for the faithful congregation of the Lord's church where we worship. I will give thanks a job I love, where my hard work is rewarded with a fullfilment in the work we do. I will be thankful for the quiet, a quiet that I have spent the better part of my life taking for granted, even hating at times. I will give thanks for God's word, for the wisdom it holds, and for the recollection God gives me of his word so that in times like these I can think on the things that matter.

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10
Being a mother has brought me so many blessings. My heart has grown larger than I ever knew possible. My time has grown more valuable than I ever expected. My plate is more full than I ever imagined it could be. My life has more moments of joy than I realized could be fit in to a day. For me, motherhood has taught me to appreciate the "be still" part of that scripture. When I am still, I know God's blessings, providence and guidance. When I am still, I remember the blessings. When I am still, I know He is here in our midst. When I am still, I know that nothing in this world is as important as my relationship with Him, and that everything will fall into place when I am still and I know God.
My quiet time ends and I head off to bed with a clear mind and a full heart, ready to start a new day after a little bit of rest. I peek my head in for one last reminder of why those hectic days mean as much as the still and quiet and say one last prayer of thanksgiving for a full life. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Eat: Low Carb-friendly Taco Soup

There is so much conflicting information out there about PCOS, but one thing most everyone can agree with is that a diet low in simple carbohydrates can be helpful. This is a favorite low-carb recipe for our family! It doesn't hurt that it is one of the simplest recipes in my collection.
Taco Soup
  • 1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup water + water as needed
  • 1 Taco Seasoning packet or 3 TBSP of your favorite taco seasoning (Here's my favorite!)
  • 2 cans Ro*tel tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 1 (16oz.) package of frozen green beans (or fresh if you have them on hand)
  • Shredded Cheese (optional)
  • Diced Avocado (optional)

1. Brown meat with onion and garlic until meat is brown and onion is translucent.

2.Drain, if needed, then add taco seasoning and 3/4 cup water and cook over medium heat until water is nearly evaporated.

3.Pour the meat mixture into a large pot, then add the tomatoes and beans. If needed, add a little water to cover. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Top with cheese and avocados, then enjoy!

This soup freezes well and reheats well. If carbs are of no concern to you, adding corn and tortilla strips or chips to the soup will make it extra tasty!

PCOS: Polycystic Pinterest Board

I have started a Pinterest board with various PCOS educational items, nutritional tips and other articles of interest. I would love for you to follow my board!
Alison's PCOS Pinterest Board

Love: Don Williams, Pop, Mi-mommy and Me

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.'
Berthold Auerbach

Overwhelmed, exhausted and yearning for the long lost carefree days of my childhood, I sped down the interstate. I turned on the radio, hoping to take a mental break en route to yet another stop on a very busy work day. I was looking for music, but instead I tuned in just in time for a commercial break; the commercial break, it turned out, was just what I needed. It was an advertisement for an upcoming concert with Don Williams at the historic Paramount Theatre and my mind began moving in a direction far from the stresses of the daily grind. I reached into my purse and pulled out my iPod, then put Don Williams on shuffle.

The music of Don Williams always takes me back to another place and time, a world without worry or insecurity or deadlines. Don Williams takes me back to two of the most important people in my life, two people who always made me feel safe, important and fearless.

When I heard Don Williams sing, I found myself in the backseat of a white Mercury Grand Marquis riding along with Pop and Mi-mommy, my maternal grandparents, to eat a catfish lunch and do a little shopping. They played Don Williams to get a rise out of me and I pretended to hate every song to get a rise out of them. As the years went by, I would pretend to hate the music even more and they would become more and more amused at my disdain for Don Williams. I would turn up my nose and they would turn up the music. Spending time out with them involved so much more than listening to country music; I always ended the day feeling like I could do anything in this world because my grandparents told me I could.

I found myself sitting on the carpet at my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve, 1992. I was opening my gifts and I kept eyeing the cassette-sized package from Pop and Mi-mommy. I had been asking for George Strait’s Pure Country album for months and I was pretty sure that underneath that paper was a cassette tape containing the songs from my new favorite movie. I saved it for last and I looked up and saw my grandparents grinning from ear to ear, eagerly waiting for me to open it. I ripped the paper, only to look down and see Don Williams’ face staring back at me. Disappointed, I looked back up at Pop and Mi-mommy and watched their grins become laughter, then looked back down at my “Don Williams” album only to realize they had taped a Don Williams insert over the Pure Country tape. I joined in the laughter, not understanding until much later just how much blessed I was to have grandparents who were vivacious, jovial and so in tune with me.

I found myself dancing in my seat to the familiar intro of “Tulsa Time” and couldn’t help but imagine Pop driving along some highway somewhere across the USA, looking forward to being home with his family. He spent most of his work years as a pipeline welder for Local 798, based in Tulsa, OK. He traveled all over the United States to work the jobs that would best provide for his family, just waiting to set his watch back to Tulsa Time, which also happened to be the time zone in which his entire family resided. He worked very long days in dry deserts, humid coastal areas and even north of the Arctic Circle on the Alaskan Pipeline. He set such a wonderful example of work ethic for all of us and like so many other gifts given to me by my grandparents, it took years for me to realize what an impact it would have on my own life.

I found myself becoming more relaxed, the stress melting away, as I heard the opening lines of “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good.” I thought of the faith of my Mi-mommy, a great example of a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She trusted in God and His wisdom always seeking to live a life pleasing to Him. In the process, her faithfulness led her children, grandchildren and husband to Christ. Her entire being was wrapped around her faith in God and she spoke easily and freely of spiritual things. She was prayerful about every aspect of life and always asked in faith; her example will always be with me and I know that when I ask God for a good day, He is there to help me through.

By the time I reached my destination, I had listened to more than twenty Don Williams songs. I couldn’t stay in another time and place forever because I had appointments to make and deadlines to meet. I did, however, bring something back with me. I came back to the present feeling important, fearless, confident, upbeat, vivacious, jovial, faithful and ready to work hard. Although my Mi-mommy passed away nearly 4 years ago and my Pop is journeying through the foggy night of Alzheimer’s Disease, the memories I have continue to bless my life. Thank you, Pop. Thank you, Mi-mommy. Thank you, Don Williams.

Friday, February 1, 2013

PCOS: Let's do this!

Hi, my name is Alison and I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). There, I said it.  I have PCOS.

Until recently, only my husband, mother and maybe 2 close friends had any idea that I struggled with PCOS. It's not that I am ashamed to have PCOS, but stories of cyst-covered ovaries and infertility elicit sympathy and I have a serious complex about sympathy directed toward me. Perhaps I have a psychological problem or some childhood trauma buried deep inside, but I doubt it; it feels more like good, old-fashioned pride. I hate for someone to feel sorry for me. Oh, sure I like to feel sorry for others. After all, I grew up in a little corner of the world where Texas and the South collide head-on and I love to feel sorry for other people. "Oh, bless her heart," and "I sure do hate to hear that" roll off my tongue with such ease. I just don't want to have any heart blessing directed at me. My life is, for the most part, an open book, but only a handful of people know about my struggle with PCOS.

I started my period at age 13 and vividly remember the mixed emotions that came along with that. On one hand, I was excited to grow up. On another hand, I was moody and did not yet understand why. On yet another hand (I get as many hands as I want because I am talking about female hormonal issues), I was pretty upset because the night before my womanhood began I had talked my mom into this really cute Guess skirt and had plans to wear it church the next morning and I was extremely paranoid about this whole period thing. Everything seemed to go by the book, but 28 days later I was without a period. My periods came when they pleased, but I don't think I ever had more 4 in a year. I was in great shape, very athletic, but not so lean and muscular that amenorrhea should be a problem.

At 16 I took my first trip to the OB/GYN. Before long I was having ultrasounds and labs done to see just what was causing the irregular periods. I remember hearing something about polycystic ovaries, but I was not particularly worried. After all, I was not sexually active and only having to deal with periods and all that comes with them only a few times a year seemed like a winning idea. When I went to college, I began gaining weight. Along with the weight came a new PCOS symptom. I suddenly had acne, a problem I had managed to avoid in my high school years. I went on birth control pills throughout my 20s to trick my body and keep these symptoms in check and did not think much about it at all. My OB/GYN made it sound so simple. He told me to take the pills to keep things going, then some day when I was ready for a baby he could give me another handful of pills and we would be good.

I married my husband, Doug, when I was 28 on 07.07.07 and we did not want a child right away. I went on birth control for nearly a year and a half and stopped taking the pill in October 2008. I had my "period" from the last pack of pills during the first week of November and then waited for another period to creep up. By early February, I had still not started and decided to see my OB/GYN to ask for an injection or pills to induce a period. She told me we would need to wait 6 months following the last course of birth control to induce a period and sent me on my way.

On the morning of March 20, 2009, I rolled over in bed and my breasts were very sore. I decided to take a home pregnancy test and received a positive result. I drank about a gallon of water and took another test an hour later. It was still positive. I remember calling my doctor's office to get in for a blood test and answering that awkward question about my last period. Um, November? I was about six weeks along when we found out and on November 18, after a very uneventful pregnancy, I gave birth to Lily.

I packed on weight VERY easily when pregnant. I was unable to produce much milk (another PCOS symptom I later found) and was not able to exclusively breastfeed, so I hoped I would manage to have a period. I did not so we induced one with pills when Lily was 4 months old. I dieted, exercised and couldn't see to shed any weight.  When Lily was a little over a year, I stopped the pill and continued to try to lose weight with no success. I am writing this blog post two years later and I have not had a natural period since giving birth. In fact, in the 5 1/2 years I have been married, I have only ovulated once. On the positive side, our success rate on fertilization is 100%!

After about 6 months of dealing with infertility after Lily, I found a fabulous new doctor who helped me work on getting to the bottom of my problem. He showed me ultrasounds of my ovaries covered in "string of pearl" cysts and studied my labs carefully.  He referred me to an endocrinologist and I have learned so much about PCOS since then. I was prescribed Metformin, a drug generally used to treat diabetes and spent about a year and a half on Metformin and was actually able to drop a little weight with the help of that drug. Just recently, I started more in depth research about PCOS, hormonal imbalance and the processes of the body and have decided to take a more natural approach. This is where I will share my journey.

Doug and I would like to add another child to our family and I would like to do so as naturally as possible. I will combining exercise, nutrition and natural supplements in an attempt gently coerce my body to have a regular ovulatory cycle. If you are reading this, I hope it can help you in some way. All I ask of you is to pray with me as I embark on this journey!