Tag: Inspirational

A Run in with My Younger Self

Written By: Jax Menez Atwell
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I’d fallen asleep but found myself awake in a strange place.  An alley.  A dark alley with dim lighting from a lamp above, some fog and mist for affect.  There before me was my younger self.  It appeared he was listening to me.  What was I saying? 

I’m sure everyone at one point has thought, “Oh, if I could just go back” or “I wish I would have known this when I was young”.   For me it is a real dilemma.   If you had known somethings would you have made the same choices in life and would you be the person you are today.  At forty years old, I am full of scars and mistakes that are all a huge part of what makes me who I am.  If I take away many of those supposed “negatives” then would I have experienced success, would I have enjoyed my triumphs, would the positives still be there without the negatives.  Each individual can only answer that question for themselves.

For me, experiencing the height of a mountain only has the elation and joy if you came from the valley.  That physical and true metaphor has a ton of weight for me as I contemplate what I would be telling my younger self.  My life has truly been hills and valleys and deep canyons and mountain tops.  For me the sweetness of the journey, in success or failure, is what makes the man.

Sure, there are lots of silly things I’d probably love to be telling myself.  Just in items of fitness alone: “Don’t lift so heavy, your joints will pay for it when your older”, “Protect your elbows and knees”, “Don’t waste your money on most supplements and learn how to eat correctly”.  I use the fitness items just as an example I’m not sure my younger self wouldn’t have already tuned out! 

If the silly, little things wouldn’t need to be said and I’m pretty confident I believe my journey of ups and downs was truly an exercise in seeing the forest for the trees.  Then what would I actually be saying to the younger me?

I found myself telling him about balance.  Such an important part to this life.   A person has categories to their life. I believe I have four categories.  I believe one category would be my spiritual side.  The physical side would represent health, fitness, body, and sexuality.  The work life or occupation would be another.  Finally, your home life and what that entails.  I was told by a man that you can have one of these categories in turmoil but getting a second into turmoil causes major life disruptions.  If a third category begins having issues then this is when we see life struggles that can cause fierce issues. I’m not sure if it was the darkness, the misty lighting or my cryptic personality but my younger self appeared to be a captive audience so I continued…

I began telling him about a code I’d develop in law enforcement.  One that has served me well as an investigator, father, and just being a good person for those around me.  The code is pretty simple, “There are two sides to every coin”.  This very simple philosophy can be applied to a plethora of things in life.  It keeps your mind open, it keeps you from instant judgements, it prevents prejudice, and it drastically will reduce failures of all kinds.  I’d want my younger self to have this mental power much sooner to deal with things to come.  Even though my younger self looked a bit puzzled I moved on.  Not knowing how much time I would have.

The process of hurt blurted out of my mouth.  Hurt will happen.  People will hurt you.  Expect to be hurt but DON’T let it make you give any less love.  As my dear mother says, “Your rewards will be in heaven”.  I found this to be a very slow and painful life lesson that I wish I’d conquered much sooner.  Always being shocked when someone close hurt me or when that knife in the back really catches you off guard.  As we get older we close people off, trust people less, have less friends…our circle gets so small that sometimes there isn’t anyone around.  I’ve experienced this and done this very action.  It really is a natural reaction to “circle the wagons” but if we do that and don’t experience the gift of giving our love to others we miss one of the true joys in life and one that is unique to the human experience.  Not sure if that one took; his look of puzzlement went to deer in the head lights!

So, feeling like my time was over I simply left him with this, “In this world, dark times will come and go, keep yourself grounded and balanced, look above to God, follow your heart, and survive the storm.”  For me that would be the best advise because I relish my journey.  I wouldn’t want to veer my younger self from the path.  “Enjoy the Journey” would be my last words.   This is where I go slinking into the shadows and disappear!  Oh, the look on my younger self’s face, you should see it!

Did he listen?  Would your younger self listen?  Life’s a journey, enjoy the path.

About the Author

Jax Menez Atwell plays The Scavenger. Jax has more than ten years of investigative experience in law enforcement agencies in Arizona and California. His investigative law enforcement experience and training include under-cover operations, narcotics, SWAT, person and property crimes, etc. Jax has been a private investigator since 2008 specializing in the hard to solve cases such as cold cases, civilian, business and government investigations. Jax was additionally part of a team of three investigative team that explored missing people in History Channel’s “Missing in Alaska.” When Jax is not perusing the truth in his investigations he finds time to throw himself at acting roles. He has been in a number of productions since 2013. Films like “.357”, “New World Order: The End Has Come” and another Montana made film “The Big Muddy” western series. Plus more. Jax brings with him a lot of energy, enthusiasm and a fierce work ethic.

 

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A Widow’s Perspective: Life without Your Life Partner

“My life is extremely full, I wouldn’t have it any other way!” – Kim

Kim Sutherland is a working mom with two grown boys, ages 22 and 17. Kim has enjoyed a full time career in the travel industry for 20+ years. About ten years ago she opened up her own décor business, as she always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and gain some additional income.

Kim has a busy schedule; however, she is careful to build in time for herself, her family, and volunteering. Kim fosters Labrador Retriever puppies for Dog Guides of Canada. She provides a loving home, follows specific training guidelines to prepare the dogs for their future “service” to a Canadian with a disability. All of the above keeps Kim very busy, and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

What many people may not know about Kim is that she is a widow and became one at a young age with two young children to care for. You can say that her world was rocked but how she coped is an inspiring story that I get to share with all of you as I interviewed Kim for this exclusive piece.

The timing of this article is extra special this week as September 10th is quickly approaching which is a memorable day for Kim. This date was when Kim and her husband, Randy were married and it is also Kim’s birthday. Therefore, this makes it a perfect time to share Kim’s story.

Tell me a little about what your husband was diagnosed with?

“My husband was diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia, at the very young age of 39. It came out of nowhere, he did not feel well for three weeks prior to Christmas, needless to say it was shocking news, it rocked our world.”

Once you heard of your husband’s diagnosis and time to live. What did you do and how did you cope?

“My husband was given three months to live, at that time I was holding our six month old infant, Carter and  my other son Matthew (age five). We were living in Calgary at the time, both of our careers had taken us there. We loved being in nature, the mountains, all of the outdoor space and family friendly living. Our family members were all back in Ontario.

Once the doctor gave me the news, I immediately called my parents. My mom jumped on a flight to Calgary to come and help. Doctor’s told me to get help, get paperwork in order, he would die from this. What I struggled to understand, was how does this happen to a guy that was so fit, extremely fun and positive, always. We had everything going for us. I couldn’t believe it, but when the doctor sat me down and calmly explained to me how sick he was, and we were being moved to a terminal ward of the hospital within minutes of the diagnosis, I realized this is serious and happening fast.

“Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.”

Each day was tough, watching someone who was incredibly vibrant maintain his positive attitude and courage (during chemo, brain radiation, hair loss and a bone marrow transplant). To this day, I tell the boys, “Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.” Sadly all the drugs and great healthcare could not keep my husband alive, his body did shut down. We lost him on August 26, 2002. The boys were really young.”

After your husband’s passing, what did you do to help yourself and your children cope?

“I knew I had to continue to be strong, no matter what. I moved back (to Ontario) to be close to family and friends. I enrolled my boys in some activities and even when I had to do the 5 AM hockey practices, bundling an infant and my eldest into the car at that horrible hour on a Saturday or Sunday morning was not necessarily fun, but it was important. The social aspect was great for them and me! I also had the unwavering support of my mom and dad. Truly, my mom is my rock.

Moms are made of something we cannot describe. Somehow we pull energy and strength out when you really feel exhausted, but you get up and put on a smile for your child and that is what matters. You are their world. My mom did a ton to keep the house together, while I ran to/from the hospital. It was a very sad time, but I knew my boys needed me and I had to keep busy to cope. I also knew that my career and the people at work, were good for me. The boys and I did a lot of activities together such as reading, Lego, playing board games, crafting, setting up play dates with other moms and kids, making new traditions.”

What advice can you give a parent who has become a widow with small children?

“Keep positive! Keep their routine, be the parent you wanted to be with your partner/spouse. Don’t be afraid to seek out friends for a shoulder to cry on, or even get professional help to deal with the grief. Nobody knows what it is like until you are in it, so if anyone is not supportive, keep away from those people. Grieving is tough. I suggest you ask someone to take the kids one day a week so you can go do something for yourself. Go to the gym, or for a long walk (or run), meet a friend for a coffee, get a pedicure…you get the idea. It’s about your downtime to re-energize. Kids take a lot of your time and energy. Take a lot of pictures. I found when my husband was sick I didn’t take enough pictures. He didn’t want photos taken (of himself); however, my boys have learned a lot through the videos and pictures we do have.”

How did you do it all? How did you balance two young children, a career and a passion (staging)?

“I did it with the help of family and friends, which I am so grateful for. I love being busy, I don’t stand still often. I started Above & Beyond Décor, to have additional income but it also feeds my creativity. That is what fills me up. Staging is hard work, although it is fun too. You get to create, like a picture in a magazine. Meeting new people, building my business, planning for the future is important to me. I am an advocate for other women, letting them know you need a “plan” i.e. get your financials in order and be ready to take on anything. None of us really know what lies down the garden path, so best to have a plan and have passion.”


Tell me a little about your staging company.

“Above & Beyond Décor was founded as a result of my passion for home décor, floral design, networking and personal growth. I read about home staging and a course that was being offered by a North America staging professional. I decided that would be a great addition to my list of services. I enrolled in the course and became a Certified Staging Professional. Real estate staging is merchandising a property’s best features, understanding lifestyle selling techniques and targeting specific buyers. My friends and family kept telling me I had the “knack” a real talent, knowing how to style and decorate. In order to get that talent noticed, I offered to stage a couple of friend’s homes for free. Their homes sold in a matter of days (with multiple offers on the table), the realtors were very impressed. Soon, a number of realtors were calling me and my business flourished.

I work with a lot of local Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington real estate professionals, they call upon me to stage vacant properties as well as those lived in.

What makes a great stager? Testimonials and referrals. I am extremely pleased with my client testimonials. I often hear that they love my style, my approach (not intrusive), and I am very personable. Comments include: “Your work is amazing;” “Wow, I love how it looks now, I don’t want to move!” “We received multiple offers because of your staging!” or “I need to live like this in my new home.”

What made you decide to become a stager?

“I realized there was a huge opportunity in the market and this just seemed like a natural step forward for me. Realtors and homeowners appreciate when a home sells for top dollar, studies have shown that 65% of buyers prefer to pay more money for a “move in” ready home. Staging is huge now!”

If you could give a younger you some advice on parenting what would it be?

“Hmm, that is tough one. I do not have any regrets, very happy with the way things have worked out for me. I would say getting proper rest is key. Being a parent is fun, challenging, you will be juggling a lot of balls in the air, so when you don’t get enough rest or just need support – Ask for help! Most of us moms don’t ask – we try to be SuperMom and do it all.”

Anything else you would like to add for our readers?

“Melanie, thank you for allowing me to stage your home and for sharing my story on your blog. It was a pleasure meeting you, Mike and Nikki and seeing the smile on your face when you sold for top dollar! As for your readers, fellow mommy friends and family – I look forward to hearing from you. Someone you know might need a stager – that’s me.

Above & Beyond Décor for the ultimate first impression. Staging really sells! Please contact me at kesutherland@cogeco.ca.”

Special thank you to Kim for her time and inspiring us with her strength, courage and passion. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Kim on the staging of my home and to get to know her as a business woman, mother and as a friend.

Kim is such an inspirational person in every way possible!

Losing her life partner was tragic and yet she found the courage and love to cope. I have to admit that this was a tough interview for me to do without shedding tears but it shows you how life has many unexpected turns and we have to embrace and love what we do have in the present. Kim has reminded me how precious life and my life partner are. Thank you Kim and please keep inspiring all with your positive love of life!

I am truly honored to have been given this opportunity to share Kim’s story with all of you and I hope you have been inspired as much as I have.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

Bijoux Marie Puce Making Teething Accessories Unique and Cool

One item I find that usually is forgotten when we are first expecting is teething accessories. Usually we don’t always see this as a gift idea as when we think of newborns, we are not thinking of that wonderful teething stage (one of the hardest stages of raising children). However, teething accessories are very important and there are some really adorable options available!

Recently I have been introduced to Bijoux Marie Puce who creates colorful jewellery, teething accessories and offers gift ideas. Bijoux Marie Puce is located in Montreal, Canada and the owner is Marie-France and she is a mompreneur who has two daughters.  Marie-France has a passion for creating unique products and this can be seen in each piece that she makes.

The product that we got to see was the Silicone Teething Toy and I had to see the owl one in person. It arrived in a nicely wrapped package and it a hand written personal thank you note (love this personal touch!). The material used to make the teething toy is: food grade silicone, nylon cord, and plastic clasp. Items made at Bijoux Marie Puce is hand made and you can tell that it is made with lots of love.

Now you can’t have a #MelandNikkiReview without honesty and when I first opened the package to see the teething accessory, I was really surprised. It is much bigger than I was expecting but in a good way. Usually when you go to these big brands, the teething accessories are so tiny and don’t last long due to poor quality. However, the teething accessory by Bijoux Marie Puce is an amazing size and high quality.

The teething accessory is easy to hold, clean and very appealing to the little ones. It would make a perfect gift for a baby shower or even as a welcoming gift to a new baby. I am sure that the little one will thank you when they are older and the parents will be grateful to have this accessory to help their little one cope with the difficult teething stage.

For this #MelandNikkiReview, we give Bijoux Marie Puce 5 hoots out of 5 for the quality, uniqueness and pricing ($25 CAD for the owl teething toy). Of course I can not forget how absolutely adorable it is! Wish I had one of these when my daughter was teething but now I know where to go if a future child is in the works. 🙂

You must check out Bijoux Marie Puce on Etsy where you can see all that she has to offer such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, hair accessories, rings, magnets, bookmarks, keychains, scrunchies, teething toys, teething necklaces and children necklaces.

Make sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see more of the beautiful creations.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

 

 

 

 

* Please note that the product was given in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed in this review are of Momma Braga and were not influenced by the company.

Life with a Daughter with Type 1 Diabetes

*This article is not to be taken as medical advice or as an expert piece on Type 1 Diabetes. The purpose of this article is to provide a look into one family’s experience and journey with a daughter with Type 1 Diabetes.

Isabella is a 12 year old young lady who is very smart, energetic and enjoys music and Irish dancing. She also loves to socialize with friends and play with her dog. Isabella is also a Netflix junkie and binge watches shows constantly. She is a daughter and sister to a 20-year old sister named Cassandra and she is well loved by all!

You could say that she sounds like a typical young lady; however she is battling a lot more than a typical young person would and that is Type 1 Diabetes since the age of eight.

So what exactly is Type 1 Diabetes?

According to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Unlike type 2 diabetes, T1D is not linked to being overweight, lack of exercise or other lifestyle factors. It is not preventable and its causes is unknown.

People with T1D must take insulin via syringe or insulin pump in required doses in order to control glucose levels in their blood. This continuous glucose monitoring involves testing their blood sugar by pricking their finger(s) six or more times a day. Despite this constant attention, people with T1D still run the risk of dangerously high blood sugar levels, which can led to complications, or dangerously blood sugar levels, which can result in a coma.

Isabella’s Story

Before Isabella was officially diagnosed, she appeared to be looking more thin than usual and was sleeping a lot. Isabella was drinking a lot of fluids and getting up all night to use the bathroom. Isabella’s mom, Vicki, thought that her daughter could have a urinary tract infection and took her into the walk-in-clinic. Upon checking her urine, the doctor inquired if Isabella was diabetic as there was sugar in her urine. Vicki informed the doctor that Isabella was not diabetic; however the doctor insisted that this was the case since sugar was present in Isabella’s urine. To further check, the doctor did a finger poke to see what her blood sugar was at and it was 29. Now this is shockingly high as a healthy person would typically be in the 5s. The doctor sent Isabella and her mom directly to emergency and instructed Vicki on what to tell the hospital team.


At the hospital, the entire staff took to her bedside immediately and only moments later was given the diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes which they stated was an autoimmune disease. “I didn’t even know what that meant. I assumed there was one kind of diabetes and couldn’t understand how a healthy eight year old could get it,” says Vicki. They were then transferred to a more accommodating hospital where Isabella stayed for three days to monitor her and get her blood sugar under control. At the hospital they were introduced to a clinic team who trained Vicki and her husband on how to care for their daughter, Isabella. They taught them how to check blood sugar; how much food Isabella can eat and at what scheduled times to do so; to ensure Isabella would stay within her target numbers.

Isabella’s parents also learned about all the things that would affect blood sugar, what would make it go up or down, without their control. In addition, they learned about the illness, physical activity, nerves, excitement, weather conditions, hormones, etc.

Isabella’s Treatment

Isabella began on regular needle injections four times a day, using two different types of insulin. This form of treatment requires a strict carbohydrate count and time sensitive schedule.

A year later, Isabella started on an insulin pump. This has given the family much more flexibility with their scheduling. Isabella’s parents are responsible for the settings in the pump and making changes to them when Isabella is having a growth spurt, exercising or for just no reason at all sometimes. Isabella’s parents work alongside a wonderful team at their clinic who are always a phone call away to assist them.

Life with a Daughter with T1D

Life has changed drastically for Isabella and her family. Vicki states, “I have become a very different mother with Isabella than I was with my eldest daughter, Cassandra. I became a helicopter parent. She doesn’t have sleepovers, not even at her grandparents’ houses. It is too much to watch her blood sugar through the night if you aren’t used to it. I would worry that people wouldn’t know what to do.”

The family also needs to ensure that they carry supplies and food everywhere they go. When they plan a trip, it takes a lot of planning and much more effort than before. They are all now much more food conscious as different foods can affect Isabella’s blood sugar differently. The “gadgets” that Isabella uses has been one of the biggest life changing aspects for her. “She is embarrassed by the gadgets she wears. She wears both an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). They will make noises when her blood sugar is out of range and people will ask what the noises are for. However, the CGM has been a great tool for us as it has made management so much easier. I am able to see her blood sugar from anywhere in the world without having to be near her. This has helped us keep down on the finger pokes throughout the day and helps keep her blood sugar closer to the target,” says Vicki.

A Mother’s Wish

“I wish people understood that T1D is an autoimmune disease and there was nothing Isabella could have done differently to avoid getting it. There is such a stigma attached to the disease because it has the word diabetes in it. I also wish that people knew that an insulin pump has not solved all of our problems. It simply holds the cartridge of insulin for us instead of having to inject using needles and rids us of the eating schedule. We still have to program it, make setting changes regularly, match food to carbohydrate ratios, be conscious about physical activities, etc. I also wish people knew what a toll this disease takes on Isabella and on our family,” says Vicki.

Vicki further stated, “I haven’t slept longer than a 3-hour stretch in years because I wake up to check Isabella’s blood sugar every couple of hours for fear of her going too low or sitting too high. It consumes my mind both day and night. I am constantly watching numbers, recording readings, making changes, asking her questions about what she’s eaten or done. I wish people knew that this takes a tremendous toll on Isabella’s body, spirit and mind. Highs and lows through the night will have her feeling exhausted in the morning. High blood sugar will have her going to the washroom more, drinking more, and feeling cranky and emotional. Lows can be scary and she may need help but can’t find the words to ask for it because her brain will not allow her to. People think “she has an attitude,” when in fact, she in unaware and unable to control her emotions. This is a huge burden on a child and I don’t think all adults understand the toll it can take on a child.”

T1D is a hard battle for the child and parents to deal with and it is important for family and friends to be cautious of what is said in front of the child. Vicki’s wish is for people not to ask if Isabella can or should be eating something. “Isabella can eat whatever she wants! She just has to give herself insulin to cover it in the moment and possibly in the hours that follow. But she can eat anything! People feel this need to police what she eats, and I’m sure it makes her feel bad,” says Vicki.

Isabella got to meet Nick Jonas.

Advice to Other Parents

The advice that Vicki would give to other parents that receive this type of diagnosis for their child is that their understanding of the disease and how to “best manage” it will get better. “No parent or child is perfect and this disease cannot be perfected. Don’t beat yourself up over the numbers. Just try your best. I cried every day for the first month. Support from other parents is key. I have support groups online that at times can act as a life line. These parents created #WeAreNotWaiting, and are being proactive in helping their children with technology faster than the medical world. I have been using NightScout, which is a way to monitor Isabella’s blood sugar on my smart watch using her CGM for almost two years now. I am more grateful for this than words could ever express,” says Vicki.

Becoming an Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

After Isabella’s diagnosis, the family reached out to JDRF and the family was encouraged to sign up for the walk so that Isabella could meet other children like herself and to see that they were not alone. The family raised money and have participated in the walk every year since. On the day of the walk, it becomes a very emotional day for the family but they need the day to remember that this disease affects so many families and a cure needs to be found.

“It’s important for me to try to give back and that is why I fundraise for JDRF. Their research is what is going to make my child’s life that much easier to manage, hopefully prolong it and maybe one day cure the disease. It is my hope that with every dollar I raise, we get one step closer to finding a cure,” stated Vicki.

This past February sponsors (logos listed at the bottom of the article) held a fundraising event called, Isabella’s Angels Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball that raised funds for JDRF. I personally attended this event and it was an amazing event for an even better cause. This is just a sample of how this family inspires others to make a difference.

I would like to personally thank Vicki for taking the time to share Isabella’s story and I commend her on the amazing job as a mother and as an inspiration to help other families.

If you would like to learn more about T1D, please visit the JDRF website.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

 

 

– Momma Braga

 

Isabella’s Angels Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball Sponsors:


My Daughter Hit A Low Patch Again…Dad Will Always Be There!

Guest Post By: Jeff Wood

If you have been following my blog you know my oldest daughter is 18 years old now and battles depression and anxiety.

Now things had really started to get better, the anger was lower, she was helping out without being asked and the biggest thing was that she was talking! Communication has always been her downfall and to see her opening up again was truly amazing. I had my little girl back, her brother and sister had the person they looked up to most, big sis, back! Things were great in our house.

Now you would think reading all that, things are still perfect. Ohhh man I wish they were, but anyone who has lived themselves or with someone else battling mental health sometimes it raises its ugly head and BOOM! right back down we go.

2 weeks ago I started seeing her behavior start to change. The first thing to go was the talking. Home from university and right downstairs, hide in her room for hours only coming up to play video games or for food. Ask about her day and you get one word answers like fine. No more talking about what she is doing or where she is going.

Big red flag for me and now I know something is wrong. Next comes the anger! Getting mad at anything said to her. The worst part is she gets stuck in her own head once talking stops and goes right to worse case scenarios, then reacts based on them even when it’s not reality. Now with this, anytime something is said to her the anger flares, and our house can become very volatile.

The whole time this is happening I try to talk to her. The first stage, not talking, gets me one word answers, the second, anger, gets me screamed at. I’m not talking your typical teen moodiness, I’m talking “Can you not right now, I’m not going to be all roses when you are the reason I’m angry!”, “It’s your fault that I’m mad, stop trying to talk to me, just leave me alone already!” all with blood curdling screams.

I have been told over the years she wishes I was never in her life, that I’m a horrible dad, I made her this way, I wish I wasn’t here, You think I’m a 2-year-old when I’m an adult – the list goes on and on. To be honest I remember saying the exact same things to my mom when I was fighting my own mind.

Believe me I don’t blame her for lashing out like this but I am so tired now emotionally from it. For almost 4 years now I have dealt with my daughters bad days and it takes a huge tole on me. I question whether I am a good dad, am I making the right choices, will my daughter turn out ok in life because she hates me so much – even though I know she loves me.

Her younger brother and sister have to sit through the meltdowns, hearing her sister scream from her room horrible things about dad. It has taken a toll on them as well and as their dad I feel horrible. They know why it’s happening, I have had those talks with them but to be honest I’m not sure they fully understand. My daughter never lashes out at her brother and sister no matter how low she gets and for that she is very strong. One day maybe she will talk with them to explain in her own words how she feels – when the time is right and they are old enough to fully understand.

The hard part of mental illness is during the low points, you don’t think clear and instead of pulling yourself up, you drag others down by any means possible. It’s hard to watch your child suffer with their own mind, you feel helpless and lost. Watching your other kids see and deal with it hurts. You feel as though you should just give up and walk away. On the really low days, Hell seems like a vacation compared to what happening. I would be lying if I didn’t say these are thoughts I have struggled with from time to time.

But here’s the thing for me, I WILL NEVER GIVE UP! I will take everything she throws at me, good and bad. I will be her punching bag always if it helps her deal with whats bugging her. I will be there to help whenever needed. I will also be the one who brings her off the ledge so to speak – by allowing her to scream, put me down, even hit me if it’s ever needed untill she is ready to open up. I love my daughter more than life itself! She will always be my first child, daddy’s little girl and a huge important part of my life.

After long talks over the weekend, the problems she was dealing with on her own came out. I will have a post soon about why. Things have calmed down and I hope will last for a while again. I was put through the ringer again, but it is worth it if only to allow her some mental peace. Sometimes as a dad, you need to same your child from themselves not just the world around them.

Now to work with her on more coping techniques, communication skills and to help were needed with these and any other problems she faces. Communication is key and the hardest lesson yet.

Parents, know your kids – and well. You never know when that knowledge will come in handy, but if it does you will be glad you paid attention.

Teen Depression & Anxiety

Guest Post By: Jeff Wood

As a father, all I want to do is help my kids through life to make it as fun and easy as possible. But like with ourselves sometimes life throws your child a curveball.

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My oldest daughter had quite a curveball thrown at her about 3 years ago. She ended up with depression. On top of that she has high anxiety. Now as a father this kills me every day. I want nothing more than to take the pain away and fix the problem but I am rendered helpless in all ways other than just being there for her.

3 years we had noticed slight changes in her behavior. Passed a lot of it off as its her being a teen. Her school marks started to drop a bit, again she is just being a teen.

Then she started dating. Quite a big step for a teen girl at the end of her grade 9 school year. Things were good at first then I noticed this boy was very controlling. I told my daughter what I thought and said keep your eyes open for red flags. That’s when the anger hit us. The over reacting over everything. The pulling away from friends and family. My wife and I sat up many nights talking about what was happening to our girl. Then BAM! The first break up. We knew this would be hard as it was for us too back in our teen years. But what we saw was something else. It was straight down. Crying and lashing out. Not leaving her room. School tanking big time.

My wife picked up on little things faster than I did which she is great with. I tend to let my emotions lead which makes me miss the little things. In talking with my wife and with my experience going through depression myself, it was time to go to the doctor.

We took her in and sure enough depression had a hold of her. Now recovery begins. She started taking anti depressants. Things slowly started getting better but until she had the right dose there was still rocky times. We had a few run aways, lots of screaming matches, and her becoming down thinking she was crazy.

Now let me tell you one thing, when your child runs away from you in a Costco parking lot, life sort of stops. I called my wife crying knowing I had just gave her crap for anger before I went into the store. This was my fault. I’m never going to see her again. The things that went through my head were endless. It took awhile but I found her. She told me things were just too much and she felt she needed to run. I don’t blame her at all. Depression is one of the hardest things a person can go through. Your head is foggy. Nothing seems right and you feel like you are not wanted.

After this day a breakthrough happened. She started opening up to dad. Now I was shocked it was me but quite happy she was talking. Things were worse than we ever thought. Many days were spent listening and trying to give advise.

I had lots of talks with her about my own experiences dealing with depression. I feel it brought us a little closer even though we still have our moments now. At the very least it showed her she isn’t alone. This effects many people and I showed this to her through groups and even on twitter. Blog reading helped a lot as well.

Fast forward 3 years. Depression really isn’t a factor any more. There still are down days but a lot of those are due to her anxiety and not the depression.

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Now anxiety is a whole other story. Anxiety runs her life. I have been talking and working with her for a long time on this but like everything unless you want it to end it never will. She is a very strong independent young lady. She knows the signs of her anxiety and a lot of her triggers but having to admit a way of thinking is wrong, like most teens, is her downfall. She feels like if she admits she is wrong she has failed and for her failing isn’t an option.

Que in test anxiety. School time brings a lot of volatile nights due to a big test coming up. She studies hard then gets completely focused on the fact she might fail and can’t sleep let alone function. The anger that come from this is huge. I try talking and getting her to cope but it is a slow process.

With life for her anxiety runs it by her way of thinking the worst is always going to happen and a lot of focus on the past without looking to the future.

Now for me I’m an A to B thinker. That’s it. I’m here and need to be there. For her to get from A to B usually hits C,D, and ends up on E. All 3 aren’t there but she seems to make them possibilities and completely misses out on where she needs to go. This is very hard to deal with as a parent.

For example. I want to go out this weekend with friends. For me it would be ok call them make plans and go. For her it’s I want this, they are probably working, no point on calling, anger because I’m doing nothing.

Now coping with depression, anxiety, and anger all go hand in hand. I have talks with her about staying out of your own head. Don’t answer for anybody in your head, ask them and wait. Keep looking forward and not in the past. Be your life’s tour guide not it’s road block. Your parents are here to help not hurt but anger and bad behavior will always have consequences weather here at home or out in the world. But the biggest one is you have to admit fault. When you admit you were wrong you don’t need to lie anymore. You can learn from it instead of hurt. It’s not a bad thing, we all make mistakes, lord knows I have made tons but it’s how we learn from them that’s important.

Also if you feel anger taking over, breath. Deep breaths help. Say I need a minute and take a break to recoup. Take time for yourself to relax. Anger brings on words we can never take back. It can ruin a lot of relationships.

The hard part is everything goes hand in hand. Depression brings on anger. Anxiety leads to depression. Anger brings out both. It’s still a work in progress for me and my daughter but the way she have persevered is amazing.

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We still have battles. We still fight but we have made huge strides forward. Dad is learning too. Things not to say or do to trigger her. I am changing myself as much as she is. I am very proud of the woman she has become. The hardest part is implementing coping techniques into every day life. I know this first hand as I have been there myself. She has made me a better dad once again through a very bad and dark time for her. She is almost there and I couldn’t be happier. I understand first hand what she is going through and don’t fault her for this at all. I still give her crap for anger, don’t get me wrong, but I also explain coping skills with it.

The future is very bright for my daughter and once the coping kicks in she will truly be free to enjoy life’s vast experiences.

I love my daughter with all my heart and would love to take the pain upon my self. She has done more for me in life than she will ever know. One day we will look back on this and laugh about butting heads.

If you yourself have suffered or have kids that do, know you aren’t alone. My daughter is and I have been through this. Please share your experience or just comment to show support for my girl. If you know coping skills that have worked for you, we are all ears.

Thank you for reading.

Life of a Mom with Mitochondrial Disease

*This article is not to be taken as medical advice or as an expert piece on Mitochondrial Disease. The purpose of this article is to provide a look into one particular person’s experience and journey with Mitochondrial Disease.

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being able to tell others’ stories to help expand our understanding of what others’ may be going through. I believe that by communicating our experiences and journey, we can learn so much from one another. It helps create a community of support with acceptance. This is why I am so honored to have been trusted to share Kailey’s story with all of you.

Kailey is a wonderful wife, mom and person and also has Mitochondrial Disease but more specifically CPEO+.

So what exactly is Mitochondrial Disease?

According to MitoCanada, the term “Mitochondrial Disease” refers to a group of disorders. Each of these conditions involves a problem with mitochondria which are tiny structures inside almost every cell in your body; all the way from your skin to the organs inside your body. Their main job is to use the food and oxygen that enter the cells to make energy. Almost all of the energy your body needs for daily life and growth comes from mitochondria. When mitochondria fails, less and less energy is converted in the cells. The cells may stop working or die. Depending on where the affected cells are, parts of the body may not function properly and many health problems can result. The symptoms of Mitochondrial Disease can range from mild to severe. There are so many types of Mitochondrial Disease that it would be impossible to name them all, and many have yet to be discovered.

In this article we will be specifically focusing on CPEO+ which stands for Chronic Progressive Eternal Ophthalmoplegia. This is a condition characterized mainly by a loss of the muscle functions involved in eye and eyelid movement. Signs and symptoms tend to begin in early adulthood and most commonly include weakness or paralysis of the muscles that move the eye (ophthalmoplegia) and drooping of the eyelids (ptosis). Some affected individuals also have general weakness of the skeletal muscles (myopathy), which may be especially noticeable during exercise. Muscle weakness may also cause difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). CPEO can be caused by mutations in any of several genes, which may be located in Mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA. It has different inheritance patterns depending on the gene involved in the affected individual.

Diagnosis

Kailey was first diagnosed at the age of 20; however, this was after seven years of testing and seeing many doctors. She was eventually referred to a Neurologist in Toronto and was ordered her first muscle biopsy. Shortly after that she was finally given a formal diagnosis of CPEO+ (the plus sign is to signify that it is a more advanced disease).

Symptoms

Kailey was 13 years old when she started to get chronic headaches, migraines and ptosis (droopy eye lids). Over the years her chronic headaches and migraines continued but with the help of massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, low intensity laser treatment and acupuncture helped her manage them. However, her ptosis was worsening over the years which resulted in four eye surgeries. Kailey even had silicone slings inserted into her eyelids to help her eyes open better. Just imagine dealing with all this growing up!

Fast forward to today as she embraces her role as a mother of a one year old her symptoms have expanded. Kailey now has chronic fatigue, major muscle weakness (including muscle loss), ptosis, chronic headaches, swallowing issues due to weak muscles, acid reflux and delayed gastric emptying (food does not digest at a normal rate). Kailey also has low vision so she sees an Ophthalmologist at the Low Vision Clinic at University of Waterloo. Kailey has been given horizontal and vertical prisms for her glasses to help her eyes move. Due to her depth perception issues, blurry vision, trouble focusing and double vision, she is unable to drive a car.

Treatment

There is currently no cure or specific medications for Mitochondrial Disease CPEO+. The treatment that Kailey is presently doing is seeing her Naturopathic doctor, message therapist and chiropractor to help her manage the symptoms. Kailey also takes some vitamins and supplements, including Coq10 that has been prescribed by her Neuromuscular Specialist.

The Effects on Pregnancy

Kailey’s pregnancy was considered ‘High Risk’ due to her disease. Fortunately, Kailey had a healthy pregnancy with the exception of minor low blood pressure. Kailey had to stop working around the seven month mark due to her fatigue from carrying around the extra weight from pregnancy. Like most ‘High Risk’ pregnancies she was monitored regularly by specialists throughout her pregnancy. Due to Kailey’s disease, she had a planned C-section at 37.5 weeks and it went extremely well.

The Effects on Motherhood

Motherhood comes with many challenges all on its own. So what type of effects is there on motherhood when you have CPEO+? Kailey states, “I often have to think outside the box to deal with some challenges. Since I am unable to drive, we bought an extra care seat for my parent’s car since they live close by to help us when I need to travel with my son, Jude. I also have some awesome friends who have extra car seats installed that we can go out with. However, we also rely on public transit if no one is available. I have to think ahead and plan our days wisely so that I do not run out of energy. If we take the bus, it’s usually in the afternoon so that my husband can pick us up on his way home from work which is a great energy saver.”

But traveling isn’t the only limitation that Kailey faces as daily activities that are normally done can prove to be difficult with CPEO+ such as opening baby food jars and pouches. Therefore, Kailey needs to plan her day in advance by asking her husband to assist in opening what she needs for the day.

When it comes to daily fun activities, Kailey plans a lot of reading, puzzles and music time to help manage her energy. Kailey also does plan some outings with her son such as trips to the library or baby programs. When she does go out she needs to keep in mind of her restrictions, for example, she often cannot sit on the ground and needs a chair as she is unable to get up easily. Kailey also hosts playdates often with new moms in her community this way she does not need to travel distances and her son can have fun with some friends.

Kailey has not allowed her disease to take away from her joys as a mother. Kailey has been very resourceful in finding supports to help her and her family. Kailey has a nurse and visitor from the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program which is a home program that provides support and resources to parents. She also got in touch with a non-profit organization called Tetra Society who helps people with disabilities with equipment and adjustments and they helped adjust her son’s crib to make it easier for her.

Of course Kailey has an amazing supportive husband and network of family and friends who are very involved in helping. Recently she has set up a cleaner monthly and a mother’s helper once a week. “When living with chronic fatigue – some days are harder than others so we just go with the flow. Sometimes we need to adjust our plans or come up with a new plan that works,” says Kailey.

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Kailey’s Wish

“It’s a rare disease that is not well known so I wish that people, especially doctors would just know a bit more about Mitochondrial Disease. It effects people in many different ways and just like lots of other diseases, I am hoping for a cure! I am so happy that Momma Braga is writing about it – awareness is so powerful.” – Kailey

Tips for Other Moms with Mitochondrial Disease

Kailey suggests to set up supports around you with family, friends, community programs, etc. “Meet other parents! I have met some great moms and since it is not always easy for me to get out, they come here for playdates which is awesome” says Kailey.

Some other tips that Kailey suggests are:

  • Learn to ask for more help when you need it.
  • Ask your doctor or health professionals about any support groups or programs in your area that can help.
  • Request accommodations when you attend baby programs – usually staff are really open about this and want to help.

Tips on How to Manage Mitochondrial Disease

Kailey suggested the following tips to those who are suffering from Mitochondrial Disease.

*Please note that the following tips are suggestions based on Kailey’s own experience.

  • Take it one day at a time. Only do what you can.
  • Don’t overbook yourself and generally stick to one activity per day.
  • Make time for rest or napping whenever you need to recharge.
  • Try to stay hydrated and eat small meals and snacks throughout the day.
  • Join a few Facebook groups on Mitochondrial Disease as it can be a great support group.
  • If possible try to attend conferences specific on Mitochondrial Disease.

To learn more about this disease feel free to visit the following resources: MitoCanada and United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

Kailey lastly says, “Just because someone does not use a wheelchair or other mobility devices it does not mean they do not have a medical condition. There are many diseases and conditions that are invisible and this is really important to know. Please do not jump to judgments. Ask questions or provide supports to that person. In my experience as a mother with a disability you need to advocate for yourself and your child and it is key to build a support team.”

Kailey is an inspiring and strong mother who definitely has not allowed her disability to redefine who she was as a person or mother. Her resourcefulness and passion to help others is evident in all that she does. I want to take this time to thank Kailey for sharing her story to be shared with the world. Like Kailey stated, “Awareness is so powerful.”

Let’s be mindful of others, let’s demonstrate compassion and let us ask questions to understand. Let us create a more supportive community and I am hoping that we will be the start of one!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga
2017 Blogger of the Year by The Baby Spot