My Tremors

I thought this would be helpful to write up, since we've moved to a different part of the country around people who aren't necessarily used to the tremors yet. In Idaho, our church family saw them from the beginning -- even ministering to us strongly in the events leading up to their manifestation -- and were instructed a bit by our pastor how to help and how not to "help." Some of our church family, being doctors, even guided us in ruling out more serious causes. Being back east, however, our friends and family have kind of gone from seeing me as a normal healthy woman to suddenly having an (at times) very visible condition that's sort of shrouded in mystery.  So I thought it would be helpful to explain a bit about my tremors:

1. They are set off by stress. Any kind of stress. Low blood sugar. Standing in the cold. Dehydration. Lack of sleep. Loud sudden noises. Flashing lights. Going over speed bumps. Being asked personal questions. Several people talking at once. Standing up for a long time. It's not that I'm an especially stressed person -- before I had tremors, I wasn't aware of most of these things really causing me any stress. But since having them, my body makes me (and those around me) keenly aware of it. 
1. 1. Stronger tremors = more stress. For me, mild stress results in slow speech or mild nodding that people often mistake for agreement or impatience. More severe stress can result in stronger nodding, eyes wandering upward, stuttering or dumbness, lip trembling, and my right arm and hand shaking or jerking. 
2. They are physically tiring. The first full month with my tremors - which at the beginning were much more severe - I was so exhausted I wasn't doing much housecleaning and almost no cooking. We ate fast food or frozen meals just about every night. I sat on the couch a lot and took a couple naps a day. Despite all of that, I still lost weight. Just because the tremors are involuntary doesn't mean my body isn't exerting serious energy to keep them going.

3. They affect my memory. I've never had a great memory -- would usually forget the main character of a book as soon as I put it down. But my memory is especially lacking now. So I will probably tell you the same story many times, might struggle to remember your spouse's name even if I've known you a long time, and I might even tell you "Sorry, my memory is really bad..." forgetting that I tell you that every time I see you.

4. I won't want to go out as often as you might. I don't do playdates, don't do field trips --- really anything that Peter can't come along to. If the kids begin arguing in the back of the car while I'm driving, my tremors will make it difficult to drive safely. Even if there are no arguments in the car, a half hour of being surrounded by kids chasing each other around loudly, or one of my own simply wandering away from me at the park will often set them off. This usually means a very long mandatory nap when I get home, which will also mean little or no homeschooling or housework getting done, and calling Peter to ask him to bring home dinner. It's too disruptive.

5. My family and I know how to properly care for my health. Every once in a while someone gets really shaken up (no pun intended) by my tremors, and they immediately insists we do something about it. "Have you looked into this? Have you talked to a specialist? HAVE YOU GOTTEN AN MRI?!" Their intentions are good, but it can just comes across as a bit belittling -- as though they are more affected by the tremors than I am, or as if I would perish if they hadn't come along to prod us. The fact is we've gone down just about every avenue, and the tremors aren't hurting me. They are tiring and annoying and sometimes I need massages. Since everything serious has been ruled out, continuing to pursue the cause would just mean more stress -- which would mean more tremors. It's not worth it just to be able to give people a diagnosis -- especially since knowing what's causing the tremors isn't going to make them go away.

6. In spite of all I've written above, my goal isn't to never have tremors, and my goal in writing this isn't to make people think "Aw, Naomi really has it bad," because I don't. There are things I feel are worth tremoring for, and I just want people to understand my frame so they don't get offended if I can't be the kind of friend, family member, church mate they are used to. I enjoy spending time with the people I love, but I want them to understand I'm not bored or sulking if I excuse myself to sit in a nearby room by myself for ten minutes. I want people to feel free to talk to me -- even about personal things -- but I'm not always good at maintaining overly long conversations. I want people to invite me over, but I'm gonna need my husband's help, and for the sake of our household I have to limit how often I break from our routine.

Hope that's a little helpful.

Look upon the Affliction

I’ve never been one to naturally gravitate towards the suffering of others. Looking people in the eyes under happier circumstances has been a learned skill for me – one which I’m still honing. The task of looking the afflicted in the eyes is especially intimidating. My first thought in a crisis is often: “Someone else will do that better than I will.” This isn’t at all a Moses-like meekness for me. It’s simply shirking. I don’t want to look like a fool by not helping “correctly,” no matter how great the need. The easiest way to avoid being enlisted is to turn away my face. “They don’t want me to stare at them anyway. And if I do, they’ll expect me to say something – and I’ll mess it up.” Perhaps there’s a sprinkle of genuine concern for others there, but overall I know I’m simply rationalizing in order to avoid losing face – because that’s more important to me than empathizing with the suffering of others, which must begin by looking on it. “They probably don’t even notice me walking right past them. I’ll just write them a Facebook comment or something.”
But the affection of God always begins with His very personal gaze. And likewise His displeasure is marked by the averting of His eyes. Our gaze barely holds a speck of the power that God’s does. But we fool ourselves if we think, relative to our other faculties and appendages, the strength of our gaze is insignificant. We can give our children our voice, our ears, and our embrace. Yet if they don’t have our eyes also, they won’t stop patting our chests and shouting “MOM!” until they do.

This same need is, while perhaps more restrained, still present in the afflicted around us. We aren’t responsible for them the way we are for our own children. Nevertheless, the cumulative gaze or aversion of a community can either improve or degrade the quality of that soul’s suffering. True, some will occasionally complain about feeling fatigued by the mass gaze of those around them. But nobody ever apostatized saying: “the Church was just too attentive to my affliction.”
Of course, the Father’s affection doesn’t simply end with His gaze, and neither should ours. But it begins there, and so should ours. Bless the afflicted around you – but begin by looking at them. Look on the mute autistic boy who never really makes eye contact with anyone. Look on the cancer sufferer whose body is a faint whisper of her former vitality. Look on the woman whose husband has abandoned her. If you can afford to do nothing else, you can still do that. You’re scared, and don’t want your gaze to offend anyone. Sublimate that fear into action, and be willing to risk making someone – not least yourself – uncomfortable with your reinforcing gaze. Inflicting your stricken brethren with thirty seconds of your own inelegance is infinitely better than sentencing them to invisibility.

“The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee…” - and may we likewise lift ours upon each other.

Firecracker Baby

Chestnut turned two yesterday. I think the most exciting part of the day for her was hearing everyone she saw wish her a happy birthday. Eating donuts for breakfast would have been a close second. She's been walking around with a frosted mouth since yesterday, pretty much.

Photography tips for the subject and observer

Springtime is just around the corner! As soon as warm weather, pretty natural backdrops, and outdoor parties appear, shutter clicks seem to increase a-billion-fold - and sitting in front of our laptops looking at newly-uploaded pictures, with it increases that feeling of "...I wish those pictures had turned out better." I try to pinpoint exactly what went wrong when this happens - either in photos I've taken, or photos others have taken of me - and have compiled the following list of things I think are good to keep in mind when in the vicinity of a camera (though, because I'm currently just a hobbyist, some of these would sound a bit different for a charging professional):

1. If you want your picture taken, don't pretend you don't. The person who instagrams every second of the party has become a cliche - but so has the "Ugh, I hate when people photograph everything" guy. We know, we know, "only vain people like their pictures taken." And photographers "just don't know how to live in the moment." But if, deep down, you actually do hope to get a nice picture of yourself and your spouse, don't smack your tongue at the photographer as soon as the camera is pulled out. If the camera thinks you resent it, it will hide from you.

2. Don't be afraid to actually take the next step and ask the photographer to take your picture! When I take photos, I tend to stick with the kids because they don't pretend to not like their photo taken - and they will often actually ask and pose!
2.1. If I just met you, I most likely won't take your picture at a get-together unless you specifically ask me to. It's a privacy/space issue, not a "Meh, she's not really worth the RAM" issue. So again, if you've been wanting an updated pic, just ask!

3. Posing well for a picture doesn't make you self-absorbed. It's like we think that, if we pose in a flattering way in front of a camera with all those bystanders watching us, everyone will know that *gasp* we've gotten plenty of practice posing every morning in front of the mirror! How vain! 
I know you know how to pose in a way that flatters you (you too, guys). So does everyone watching you (because they all do too). You can feign humility and end up with an awkward oh-geez-I've-never-thought-about-how-to-pose-before picture; or you can be confident, stand up straight, flip your hair back, and end up with a picture you love.

4. Don't snicker when someone is posing for a photo. We get that it's a little weird watching someone stand there smiling, not blinking, for a minute straight. Trying to break the awkwardness by making a joke about the subject's teeth will pretty much guarantee that he'll hate every picture of himself from then on.

5. Don't have unrealistic expectations. 200-some photos snapped at a get-together will not translate to 200 perfectly edited photos in which you look like Jessica Alba or 80's Rob Lowe. It will most likely translate to 20 photos in which you look like... yourself. But hopefully more healthy and less deer-in-headlights-like than in the photos on your uncle's point-and-shoot.

6. Understand that, if you like my photos, it's because I've become picky over the years (and could always be pickier, I know). What a non-photographer may describe as je ne sais quoi, a photographer can (hopefully) describe as je sais exactement quoi - meaning that, just because you personally can't pinpoint exactly what makes one shot fantastic and another kinda blah doesn't mean there isn't actually something inferior about a throw-away. Because a photographer's photos are her ambassadors (regardless of whether she is a professional), it's important not to insist she put a shot out there that she sees flaws with.

7. The photoshop jobs you see in magazines are done by professionals who've studied their craft for years (and sometimes still do a terrible job). The photoshop jobs in shows like Law & Order - the ones so good it takes the professional photo analyst until the end of the episode to realize they're fake - are not actually done by a 16 year old drug lord whom the eye witness at Best Buy can confirm only bought Photoshop a week ago.
"He paid in meth, officer. But I got manager approval, so..."
In other words, no. I can't add a realistic T-Rex to the background of your photo. I can't even make you 10 lbs thinner or change your hair color in a believable way. I can remove the dark circles from under your eyes and get rid of zits. That's about as much as I'm willing to try, until I learn more (hint: that's not gonna be until my kids are all old enough to change their own diapers).