Furbaby Love

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


Before Ash and I had Jai, we adopted three cats.

And we were, and to a lesser extent still are, crazy cat parents. Our cats are spoiled. They have multiple beds (some are heated) around the house, two big kitty towers, a box filled with toys, a drawer filled with treats, and wet food for all their meals.

They are well-cared for and loved by us, with Jai learning how to respect animals and be gentle towards them.

Furbabies for many, as was the case for us, are the first and sometimes the only children for couples. Two were present for our wedding, and all three were there during my diagnosis. They were there when I went into labor and will hopefully be with us for a while longer for some more milestones.

Because they were there for major events in our relationship they are huge emotional supports for Ash and myself. For that, I am grateful to be able to share my life with them and all they do for us as devoted companion animals.

I am especially grateful for Lytton and all the love and affection he gave me from day one.

Little Ball of Love

Lytton is my cat. He’s a beautiful, silky Bombay rescue that has a smart aleck attitude with an emphasis on smart. Sure, I am slightly biased, but he really is an awesome cat. We went into the rescue and Lytton picked me instantly. I was looking at a couple other cats that were available for adoption, but he kept reaching for me and looking for my attention.

How could I say no? We ended up adopting him with his foster brother, Gerard.

Wherever I go in the house Lytton has to follow me. Many nights he sleeps on my pillow or between Ash and myself. Recently he’s taken to nipping Ash if he gets too close to me in bed. If I go away for a couple of days he acts mad with me, but within several hours he won’t leave me alone, nuzzling me until I give him some scratches and my lap.

Most endearing is he can pick up emotional states and will provide comfort when a person (not just myself) feels low. We’ve had several guests come over and Lytton revealed that they are going through something by way of pestering them for attention.

Five years ago, while I was dealing with trying to figure out what was going on with me and immediately after my diagnosis, Lytton filled in where Ash could not emotionally and physically. This is to say that Ash would be at work and I would be at home resting, Lytton would function as an unofficial emotional support animal for me. If I needed to cry in frustration or have a warm body lying next to me while I slept, Lytton was there until Ash got home.

And Baby Makes Six

Lytton has effectively taken on the role as a second father for Jai. When I was nursing Jai he would curl up alongside Jai as a barrier to prevent rolling. I don’t believe this was his intention, I think it had everything to be close to the little heater newborns are, but it was a sweet gesture.

When Jai wants alone time in his room, Lytton will perch on the rocker almost as if he’s watching over Jai. Lytton truly seems invested in Jai’s wellbeing which makes sense considering he never left my side while I was pregnant. Whenever I was home, Lytton was my shadow. I have many pictures of him using my belly as a pillow or reaching his paw out to touch me while we tried to nap.

When I was in early labor, Lytton plopped himself on my lap and slept with his head on my belly and purred until I had to change positions. He was a wonderful comfort to me and I think even for Jai in those moments (I can imagine the vibrations from purring was soothing immediately after a contraction).

lyttonlove

Lytton while I was in early labor.

A Lifetime of Friendship & Comfort

Having the cats there for me during the diagnosis, pregnancy, labor, and even today really helps keep my stress levels down. Lytton or Christopher will curl alongside me on the couch or the bed and even if we aren’t touching, their presence brings a lot of comfort to me.

With my MS, having that emotional support for my stress is extremely important. It wasn’t until I started being more mindful of the connection between stress-levels and flare-ups that I recognized the importance of our furbabies. I started taking the time to sit, stroke, and enjoy my time with them more than before as a means to calm down.

Now, when it’s time for my afternoon nap, I call out to Lytton to let him know I am heading upstairs for a nap. Sometimes he follows and on the times he does not, I wake up with him alongside me in some fashion.

While I know Lytton, Gerard, and Christopher’s time with us are short, I know that they provided us with a lifetime of love and memories. I think we will always have a furbaby in the home with us, whether it’s feline or canine, because of the comfort they provide us. I also know that having a companion animal helps children learn compassion, something that I want to teach Jai. For all that they do, even if it’s nothing but be available for a quick scratch, I am grateful for our furbabies.

Do you have any furbabies that help care for you in little, endearing ways? How have they provided comfort in your life? Leave your stories in the comments.


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Illness as a Positive

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


Having a chronic illness is no fun.

I know that’s a bit of a shocker for anyone reading this, especially if you have a chronic illness/disability. That said, having a chronic illness did bring about a positive change in my life: I think it forced me to rethink my life and my health and make important changes.

I am not about to turn this post into inspiration porn (don’t worry, that link is safe for work), but I do want to express gratitude for the wake-up call my MS gave me. I call it my “rock bottom” because it forced me to make some decisions about the direction I wanted to take physically, mentally, and emotionally. I do, however, wish it hadn’t taken a chronic illness diagnosis to make these changes

I would be more than happy to give back my illness and keep all the healthy changes if given a chance. 

Prior to the Diagnosis

To understand why I am grateful for my current health, it’s best to compare it to where I was physically prior to my diagnosis.

I’ve hinted at my state in previous posts throughout the blog, but I never fully discussed my mental and physical state. Partially because it was never necessary to the post, but mostly because I was ashamed of where I was at in life.

I was delusional about my physical health. It’s easy to see that on the other side, but living in the middle of it I thought I was healthy. I would eat vegan, run, do yoga, try to meditate when the time would allow, but essentially go through the motions of what I thought was healthy living.

And then I would wonder why I wasn’t losing weight. I justified it by saying this to myself repeatedly:

Ah, that’s just muscle being put on. Muscle weighs more than fat.

I am just stressed out right now, so once I get beyond this period, I will be fine. I need to eat like this because it’s how I am coping with my stress.

Apparently, my 5’3″ body is meant to be 160 pounds. Since I can’t lose the weight, that must be my natural set point.

I also didn’t feel better, I was just grumpier for waking up earlier and sweating a bunch with little to no payoff.

Let me be clear and say that weight is not the absolute indicator of health: athletes can be considered overweight and be at peak physical fitness. A person can be a normal weight and be coping with an illness of sorts. Weight can be a symptom of a bigger problem and it can also cause other issues, but looking at weight for whether a person is healthy or not shouldn’t be the only factor. It is just one of the factors.

Through most of my adult life, I was carrying around an additional 20-30 pounds. This extra weight played a negative role in my overall activity level, my mood, my energy levels, and my depression. I firmly believe that these factors exacerbated my MS symptoms. There were days where I would come home after teaching and fall asleep for hours until Ash got home, wherein he’d have to make or order us dinner.

It was always a slog to get any important work done for school and professionally speaking.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had very little motivation to make any positive changes in my life. I would do it in spurts, but those would fade out when I didn’t see immediate results. I had nothing truly motivating me beyond “this is what our culture tells me to do.” It wasn’t enough and therefore I couldn’t stay motivated to continue.

I figured I could never get into peak physical and emotional condition because I just couldn’t. No other reason other than that: I just was not able to be healthy.

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Civic Duty

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


Today, in the United States, is the mid-term elections. So I wanted to express how grateful I am to have the opportunity to vote.

I remember learning about voting through elementary school and about the suffrage movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. I grew up knowing that being able to vote was a right, but as a woman less than one hundred years away from the Nineteenth Amendment, it was also a privilege of sorts. My great-grandmothers would have gone part of their lives unable to vote whereas I knew that once I turned eighteen I could register.

As soon as I was able to, I registered to vote. Every time I moved I switched my registration. If I knew I wouldn’t make it to the polls for a particular election, I filed for an absentee ballot or moved heaven and earth to make it home. I can confidently say that I have not missed a single November or Primary election. I even try to go to the smaller ones for the local elections.

If I ever missed an opportunity to vote, I can count them on one hand.

Voting is extremely important to me. I recognize the sacrifice that the women underwent so many years ago to make sure I had that right to vote that I don’t want to ever waste that opportunity. I feel that I am able to honor these women by standing in line and waiting my turn to cast a ballot. By going to my polling station it’s an act of gratitude for all of those who went before me to make it possible.

I also recognize that my ability to vote and the fact that my vote counts, is a privilege. Not everyone has free and fair elections even in my own country. While there is a lot of vitriol out in the US political climate right now, our elections are still relatively free. Racially, I am part of two groups of people who have historically been disenfranchised, so each time I walk up to get my card I am nervous that I might run into some conflict with a poll worker.

My state is currently under national scrutiny for the disenfranchisement of some voters over the course the current mid-term elections, so getting out to vote was extremely important to Ash and me.

So important that with the exception of the 2016 elections (Jai was only one month old at the time), I make a point to bring Jai with me to vote. I want him to see that this is his right and if he wants to help bring about change, he needs to see how that happens. Right now he’s enjoying the sticker at the end, but when he gets older I want him to enjoy watching Mommy or Daddy pressing buttons on the screen and watching the card spit out after the vote is cast.

I will start explaining what each election is about, who is running in it, what they are running for, and explain why I am voting the way I am. I hope he’ll ask me plenty of questions along the way and more importantly, I hope it gets him excited to go out and vote as soon as he can at eighteen.

So while it may be a minor thing to be grateful for, I truly am glad that I have the opportunity to play such a small role in how my country is run. Sometimes it feels as though my voice isn’t heard or ignored, but I know that I did what I could regardless.

Do you enjoy voting? What’s your favorite part of the process? Share your thoughts and any fun stories in the comments below.


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Featured photo credit: Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash


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


Personal Growth (after having a child)

Today is Jai’s 2nd birthday.

I wanted to spend the post reflecting on how much my life changed for the better since his arrival two years ago.  It’s going to be a post about me, but hopefully not too sappy when I talk about Jai and his impact on my life.

Life before a Toddler

To be cliche, life before a child is relatively uncomplicated. Any complications I had to deal with were of my own making. I was in graduate school, dealing with interpersonal drama, and trying to manage my MS. Granted, at the time, I didn’t see how I affected everything around me and how I could untangle myself from my complications, but I wasn’t ready to receive the wisdom that life experience gives to tell me that.

To be fair, life with a child isn’t any more complicated than without – it’s just what becomes complicated shifts and you are now responsible for another human being. Life is complicated in a different way.

Before Jai, my life was completely unfocused. I had to figure out how to handle my diagnosis, I needed to re-prioritize my life, and I needed to figure out what direction I wanted to go in for the long-term. Many moments were spent just allowing myself to be distracted from figuring out what I wanted to do and allowing myself to remain in a rut.

This would include binge-watching TV, comfort eating, playing games, teaching without forward momentum, and finding other means to avoid dealing with what kept me from finding focus.

I thought when I re-prioritized my life after accepting my MS that I was done, but I still engaged in avoidant behavior when it came to making major life decisions. I needed to drop toxic people from my life (and be okay when they left), make serious professional decisions, and do a better job managing my health.

I think in some part having a child was another means of distracting me from making those decisions. I had a biological desire to have a child, but I also wanted to push decision-making down the road for a couple more years. Not a good reason to have a child, by the way. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to the parents.

Changing for the Better

It wasn’t an instantaneous change when Jai was born. I had to recover, readjust, and reprioritize my life with a new family member. A newborn provides a great distraction for those looking to be distracted. But after my MRI in July 2017, coupled with Jai’s increasing solid food diet, I realized that I needed to make some serious life changes.

On the days I drove to work I saw a sign that said: “be the person your dog believes you to be.” I always thought it was a silly sign mainly because I am a cat person and I never gave it much thought to the philosophy behind it. Once I had Jai I reflected on what the sign truly meant (but switched out “a dog” for “a child”): a child views a parent as a protector, educator, and comfort. I realized that I needed to become the person Jai thought I was to the best of my ability.

That’s when I decided to begin my journey towards healthier living, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Jai didn’t make me change, that wasn’t and never will be his responsibility. I was changing for Jai and mostly for myself. I realized that I was extremely unhappy with where I was in life and that unhappiness was going to impact Jai.

But it would be dishonest to say that I would have made these changes with or without a child. I would like to think that I had enough self-awareness to make the changes eventually, that I would get tired of my status quo, but I don’t think I would have gone in a positive direction. I suspect I would have given up on a lot of things and just existed, waiting for my MS to progress to the point of no return.

I think that having something outside of me and dependant upon me, beyond a cat, was my “rock bottom.” Having Jai was both the highlight of my life up to that point, but the wake-up call I needed to have to make necessary changes. Again, not his responsibility, but for me was the kick in the pants I needed to make improvements.

There are plenty of days where I wish I made these changes before having Jai, but I don’t believe in indulging too much in regret, so here I am.

Moving Forward

I am hoping that I will continue to grow and change in positive ways for Jai. I want to be the person he believes I am: confident, caring, kind, strong, and comfort. It’s important that I model positive behaviors for him so he can become the person I know he can be.

I just find it so hard to believe that another person can make someone want to change for the better. I wanted to be a better person for Ash when we first met, but I moved at a glacier’s pace for him. With Jai, when I made the decision to change it was much faster and more persistent.

I think the best birthday present I could give Jai is my commitment to him and continuing to be the best, yet acceptable imperfect, parent he needs in his life.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton