The Intruder

For Halloween, I wanted to go back to my creative writing roots and share a “frightful” short story I wrote recently.


“I’m going to throw Lorde into the car to get it!

What I didn’t admit to my husband was that I always viewed Lorde to be the most expendable of the two cats. Lorde was sweet, but he wasn’t “mine” and he was always a little…off. My cat, Morgan, embodied all the famous cliches pertaining to cats: fat cat, lazy cat, curiosity “killed” the cat, and in a case such as this, a scaredy cat.

I knew that if I put Morgan in the car to chase off our intruder, I would come back the next morning with him curled up in the footwell of the front seat having not moved since the night before. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rodent popped out of its hiding place to flip me off as I cradled my non-hunter and brought him back to the house to feast on a breakfast of wet food and treats.

I wanted to send in our known killer cat. Lorde was a ratter. He never gave us the bugs he killed as presents, but if I found a dead bug body, I knew Lorde was the last one to see it alive. He cornered a tiny Brown Snake in our laundry room one summer afternoon and meowed in disappointment when I scooped it up with a cup and cardboard to bring it outside.

If he could handle a snake, surely he could hand a rodent?

My husband laughed at my outburst. He thought I was joking, and I was for the most part, but there was an edge of seriousness in my declaration. I wanted to get rid of this rodent that found its way into my vehicle and causing unseen amounts of damage. I had reached the point of crazed desperation.

We discovered the intruder on Saturday.

I was locking up the house while my husband had our child in his arms, preparing to put him in the car seat.

“Oh wow, look what Bodhi did!” I looked over to where my husband was pointing at the car seat after I opened the driver’s door.

“Bodhi?” I was a bit incredulous at what my husband was suggesting, “I don’t think Bodhi would be capable of destroying his car seat like…” I realized I couldn’t rationalize my child being strong enough to fray and completely destroy his car seat straps while sitting in the back.

What could have done this? We rarely come in contact with wildlife, so how could something have gotten into our car and make such a mess?

The only thought going through my mind as I picked the fluff and insulation away from the crotch strap to find that the clipping mechanism was able to slide completely away, was that someone did this. Not something, but someone.

Why would someone break into our locked car, destroy the car seat like an animal did it, lock the car back up again and walk away? That made no sense.

Then I took a moment for a rational thought. Okay. Not human. But animal. What type of animal? Raccoon? Could a raccoon open the door in such a fashion? A bear? Here in the middle of suburbia? We had just vacationed in a rural area, did it happen then?

Digging through the car seat damage a little more, I discovered the poop.

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Fall Mountain Getaway

We did something new this year: we rented a cabin in the mountain region of our state for the weekend. We wanted to finish celebrating Jai’s second birthday in a fun, outdoorsy sort of way, so we settled on trying a cabin.

It’s much too cold to camp with our supplies and I love trying new experiences so this was a great opportunity.

One thing about living in a major metropolitan area is that there aren’t enough opportunities to connect with nature, especially when raising a little one. So I try to brainstorm ways to get Jai out of the city and into the country to gain similar experiences I had as a child. Getting a cabin made the most sense given how rural the location.

It was a special win because Ash is not a big camper and getting him to a place with wi-fi accessibility is much easier than getting him to a place without. With a working fireplace, I was in my own happy place.

Plans & Adjustments

The trip itself was well-planned and we came well-prepared. The weather, however, did not cooperate. We’d hoped to go for a hike one day of the trip, but had to opt for staying in the cabin or finding alternative plans due to the rain and cold.

Cold is fine for hiking. Rain, cold, and wind? Not so much with a toddler.

Instead, we ended up being tourists in the area. We went to an antique mall to walk around, a cafe that has a petting zoo and play area and driving around to enjoy the scenery. Overall, it was a great way to spend the day despite having to make changes to our initial plans.

Enjoying the Break

I made sure to spend the weekend off of my phone as much as possible, especially keeping away from social media. I worked on a crochet project I started a while back and played some card games with my family once Jai was in bed. We didn’t turn on the TV once (though the cabin had one) and enjoyed the beautiful mountain view from our back porch.

We were in the heart of Appalachian mountains and I could see why people settled into the mountains so long ago. The views alone are worth it.

Coming back to the urban area was less of a drudgery than I thought, as I tend to hate the stress that comes flooding back from it. But I have to admit that I love my proximity to a lot of things that you don’t get in these rural areas.

Plans for Next Year

It was such a wonderful experience to spend a fall weekend in the mountains that we want to make it a yearly tradition for Jai’s birthday month every year (until he says “no more”). Given how much he loves nature, I suspect this will be something we will be doing well into his adulthood.

Getting away tells me how important it is to take a break from normal life as much as possible. I understand that it isn’t always feasible financially, but making some time where I don’t have to interact with the outside world for 48 hours does have its benefits.

What do you do to get away from it all? How did you come up with that as your solution? Leave your suggestions and stories in the comments.


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The Importance of Movement

It’s fall, which means colder weather makes it difficult to get moving to either exercise outside or make it to the gym. Perhaps because of the season, it is more important than ever to keep moving. As we head into winter, chances of weight gain increase along with seasonal mood changes that might be mitigated with some form of exercise.

Yesterday, researchers released a study regarding the importance of exercise and health. It’s something I’ve known a long time from health class and personal experience: exercising makes me feel better. If I sit still long enough (even in the span of a few hours), I start feeling bad.

That was the point of this study: the longer we sit during the day, the more danger we put on our health in the long-term. Sitting for vast spans of time and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle is worse than smoking. This study wasn’t providing new information, this article from 2014 discusses how dangerous sitting for hours on end is for our bodies. But this study was another confirmation of what researchers were saying: movement is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

While the studies weren’t talking about the emotional impact of a sedentary lifestyle, more of the long-term impact, aerobic exercise is a form of anti-depressant for those suffering from major depression. A person should never quit their drug-regimen in favor of running without consulting their healthcare professionals first, but adding running or some other high-aerobic workout to the routine might increase the anti-depressant impact for mental health management.

This information is great to have to make informed decisions without an autoimmune disease that impacts fatigue levels, but living with MS, getting out of bed can be a hardship some mornings.

What to do when your body works against you?

I count myself lucky with my MS: my disease is rather benign and easy to manage compared to someone with PPMS, SPMS, or even some versions of RRMS. But it can cause my mood to swing, my depression to kick into high gear, and send my fatigue into overdrive for no reason other than “just because.”

Getting out of bed to go for a run some mornings is particularly rough when my body just does not want to move. Additionally, I’ve suffered from being overweight and depressed, so I understand how each individual factor can impact personal motivation and ability.

So what can you do?

  1. Speak with a trusted healthcare professional about what you can do to increase movement in relation to your particular health concerns or limitations. You want to find an expert who will be sensitive to your situation to provide positive encouragement, but also one who will point you in an appropriate direction for the types of exercises needed to get you started.
  2. Even if your doctor is providing you with generic information, use that information as a starting point with your own research.* Find simple exercises you can do from bed or the couch while watching television. From there, you can build up your type of exercise and the amount of time spent.
  3. Drink water. Water helps energize muscles to help prevent fatigue, protect joints and the nervous system (a huge plus for MS), and decrease MS symptoms.
  4. Keep your goals reachable and manageable. If you know that getting out of bed will be difficult most mornings, see about adding a different type of exercise that can be done from bed until you have a good day.
  5. If you have to miss a day or forget, just plan to restart tomorrow. Don’t look at a day off as a failure, but just something that happens. Try to maintain an attitude of moving forward rather than dwelling on forgetfulness. Don’t overdo it if you do miss a day – with MS that can set you back from exercising tomorrow.

*Note: your own research must be done with extreme caution and consideration to your ability levels. Do not put yourself at risk.  Read my disclaimer about health advice here.

Lack of Motivation

I find that the lack of motivation is my biggest obstacle to exercising. I wish I could write, “do this and you’ll always be motivated!” but the truth of the motivation obstacle is this: it varies from person-to-person and moment-to-moment. What keeps me motivated may not apply to another person and what keeps them motivated would never work for me.

When dealing with a chronic illness, motivation can run thin, sometimes without being the individual’s fault, but because of the way the illness impacts brain function. Having physical impairments stacked against you can be depressing on its own.

So how to combat this?

It’s never going to be a “snap your fingers and get over it” solution. That is not possible and won’t work. Rather, figure out what is important to you at the moment. Is it disease management? Depression management? Having more energy day-to-day? Wanting to see the numbers go down on the scale? Figuring out that primary starting place may be enough to get the ball rolling and sometimes that’s all it takes.

Having reports released about the importance of exercise are validating for me on my health journey because it shows that I am on the right path, especially on days when my energy and motivation are at its lowest. I just have to move forward and try not to be discouraged by a bad day or my MS.

What prevents you from exercising? What keeps you motivated to exercise? Relate your stories below in the comments section.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton


Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Bread

It’s starting to get chilly in the South so grabbing a slice of pumpkin bread becomes more appealing in the mornings. I’ve gotten Jai on board with enjoying pumpkin bread, so much so that the other day he made a very specific request for pumpkin bread.

When my baby asks for pumpkin bread, I make him pumpkin bread.

Jai is a grazer so it’s important to pack whatever he eats full of nutrients and protein. I had some hemp hearts and flax seeds in the house and decided to add those in my recipe to up the protein potential. The first batch, Jai was less enthused about, but when I added in some applesauce in a second batch, it helped sweeten the bread a little more to satisfy his cravings.

Before you take that first bite…

Something to keep in mind with the following recipe is that one slice will go a long way. This recipe is healthy, in that, it is packed with protein, omega 3 & 6, and other nutrients, but it’s extremely calorie dense. Because the bread is high in calories this isn’t a snack food, but one slice is a meal. If you are watching calories I caution limiting your intake to one slice per meal.

See my notes at the end of the recipe for a way to reduce the calories. Read More


Pumpkin Fun

Fall is a time for pumpkins and all the pumpkin things. I love all the pumpkin scented soaps, candles, and baking.  As soon as Labor Day Weekend is over with, I break out all the pumpkin scents.

But let’s be honest, that has more to do with the nutmeg than anything else.

Gathering real pumpkins and pumpkin related decorations is always a fun time for me. Ash rolls his eyes everytime I bring new decorations into the house. He prefers to keep the house undecorated throughout the year and with a toddler that’s a more realistic outlook to preserve the more delicate decorations.

Pumpkin Patches

One of our favorite activities is going to local pumpkin patches. I love picking out the perfect pumpkin to either carve or leave on our front walkway for decoration. But because we live in a major metropolitan area, finding a pumpkin that doesn’t come from a giant bin in the grocery store is tough.

Fortunately, we have an alternative within city limits: local religious and non-profit organizations set up pumpkin patches in their parking lots that are a great place to select a couple pumpkins for our house and get some pictures.

When Jai was less than a month old, we went to one and dressed him up as the “hungry caterpillar” to get some adorable photos amongst the pumpkins. 

The only disadvantage to these sorts of setups is that we don’t get all the other fun activities that go along with pumpkin patches: cider, hayrides, corn mazes, and fresh baked goods. That’s why I go to these places in a pinch when looking for last-minute pumpkins but go outside the metro area for the bigger farms.

Now that Jai is older, going to the larger pumpkin patches are become more necessary because of all the extra activities. He’s still too young for some, but hayrides and wandering around a field is a grand time for him.

Pumpkin (and Other Fall) Fun

Selecting a pumpkin isn’t the only fun activity to do in the fall. Some of my favorite things to do with pumpkins:

  • The expected: carving a pumpkin
  • Roasting pumpkin seeds
  • Mulling cider while carving a pumpkin
  • Painting pumpkins (better for little ones)
  • Roasting a pumpkin for recipes: pumpkin bread, pie, cake, coffee, and other delicious treats
  • As a kid, I loved counting the pumpkin lines just to see how many they had (looking for even or odd numbers)
  • Reading scary books and watching scary movies while eating roasted pumpkin seeds and drinking cider

What are some of your favorite pumpkin-related activities? Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe you want to share? Comment with your thoughts below.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton