Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where are we being called?

In the most recent newsletter from our church, this was a question posed--where is God calling us? It was somewhat timely as I'm been trying to figure that out. There have been times when I've felt this strong pull from God, strong direction, strong urgency to listen. But for some reason that is not now. I find myself going through normal routines and wonder what has changed and why do I not full that same tug or pull.

Perhaps I'm not listening and life has become so chaotic that it is difficult to find time to slow down, pause, stop, and think. That's true. I used to write more in this blog diary of mine. But now I find myself getting up, rushing to work, working chaotically to get things done, not taking breaks, rushing to get my daughter from school, take her to activities, do homework, help her learn to read or stop writing numbers backward, doing schoolwork, trying to find my exercise time... What happened?!! It seems things have changed and become rushed and when there is time to slow down, I'm out of energy to the point I wonder what is the easiest thing I can make for dinner with some semblance of nutrition in it?

So, I hope things change. I'm not sure how they will. I keep looking for ways. Maybe God will at some point give me a tug and say "PAUSE...BREATHE...THINK..." Because really, for this cycle of busy-ness to end, I think it will take some yank from outside the "norm."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Personal Best

Thought I'd post an article written on me for my college alumni's magazine. Mostly true, except I've actually been skiing for 6+ years. Can also be found on this link (with my picture):

The last sentence--yes, I really want that Masters degree!


by Traci Vogel:

Beth Newsom '95 was in high school when she first noticed something strange. A dedicated runner, the slender brunette regularly brought in prizes for her cross-country team. The state meet during her junior year was no different—her team took first place, and Newsom clocked her fastest time. Afterwards, however, she suddenly experienced a disturbing "pins and needles" numbness in her legs.

"It went away, and I never told anyone about it," she says, but looking back, it was probably the first sign of the illness that took several more years to diagnose.

Newsom, who lives in Parker, Colorado, with her husband and six-year-old daughter, has multiple sclerosis. The disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks the central nervous system, is frightening not only because there is no cure, but also because its progression is unpredictable. Living with multiple sclerosis can mean years of relative health, then a sudden and debilitating "attack" leading to severe loss of function.

For an athlete, it's among the worst of diagnoses—and yet, some twenty years after those first symptoms, and now semi-paralyzed from the waist down, Newsom continues to live as an athlete and to challenge herself as one. She works out with arm weights daily, cycles with a group of disabled athletes who use hand-pedaled cycles, and recently skied for the first time, using adapted equipment that allows her to ski while sitting. A photo of Newsom on the slopes appeared in a February 2009 USA Today article about athletes triumphing over their disabilities.

Newsom credits athletics with helping her overcome the limitations imposed by multiple sclerosis, both physically and psychologically. It all started, she says, with her experience on the track team at Kenyon.

Newsom was at the height of her physical abilities when she arrived at Kenyon as a freshman in 1991. She joined the cross-country team under coach Duane Gomez. It was Gomez who showed her video evidence of the marked wobble that had developed in her stride by her sophomore year, sending her on the road to her diagnosis. "[The video] showed me, O.K., it's real, it's not in my head," Newsom says. She began taking trips to the Ohio State University Medical Center for testing.

There, on February 11, 1993, she heard the official news. That day, she had asked her friend and teammate Kelley Wilder '93 to accompany her. "I had read a lot about MS, but at this point I was doing O.K.," she says. "I was starting to run again." When the doctor said the words "multiple sclerosis," she was stunned. "I remember I said, 'So, should I just lay down on the floor and die?'" Newsom and Wilder walked back to her car, and, she says, "We just sat there and cried."

Back at Kenyon, she rallied, in part by remembering a motivational trick that Gomez had taught her. "Coach Gomez had this method: if you're running a race and you're thinking about the whole 5k, it seems like a long distance," she explains. "But if you break it up into little parts, if you think, 'I can make it to that tree; I can make it to the end of the next block,' it doesn't seem so long. In life, I use that a lot."

Newsom looked down the road ahead: she would no longer be able to run competitively, but she could create other goals. She became the assistant track coach. She switched her major to honors math and economics. She auditioned successfully for the Chamber Singers. During her senior year, she finished the Columbus Marathon.

As her disease progressed and mobility became more difficult, the willpower Newsom learned from long-distance track helped her conquer seemingly impossible challenges. For example, she says, "Somebody told me I couldn't or shouldn't have a baby. Well, I didn't think I could ride a bike again, either. So I went ahead and had a kid." Today, along with raising her child and overseeing the renovation of her house, Newsom is pursuing a master's degree in public administration from the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver. She works as a project coordinator for the healthcare organization Kaiser Permanente, and is a network leader for the Colorado Springs Americans with Disabilities Act Center.

Such a busy existence would be a challenge even without mobility issues, but Newsom works around them. She gets around the house by bracing herself against walls—"or scooting on my butt," she says. For short trips, she uses a walker or leg braces. For bigger distances, she uses a wheelchair, although she resisted it for a long time. "Really, though, it's freed me up. I can go to the mall with it," she says.

Sometimes, Newsom dreams that she's running again. She can still remember how it feels, she says. But the competitions she now wins daily—watching her daughter ski beside her, getting one test closer to her graduate degree—are where the real rewards are found.

Friday, October 2, 2009

To Where?

It's now "that time." The exaccerbation happened. I hate that; I hate not being able to control when they're coming or what is going to happen. I hate not knowing how they will resolve after steroids wear off, and of course I hate the emotional roller coaster courtesy of steroids.

So I sat one night in silence at the kitchen table halfway through the course of steroids, waiting to let the dog in, pondering so much of life, where contemplations of things like life are magnified by being on steroids. This attack was upsetting from the start because I felt so out of control of everything, and helpless. On the steroids, I thought about those feelings of helplessness that, in a sense, are there much of the time, not just during attacks. I do get tired after a day of work, regardless of MS, and I often feel helpless in not being able to push myself past the fatigue. And so, I thought, what should I do with all these feelings?

I wrote kind of a letter, or list, to God, on where I could use help figuring things out, and what I wanted to know. This could be done regardless of religion--I just am a religious person. I don't have the list right here, but I know some things on it. The main thing I wanted to know was what was going to happen now, would I be ok, and could I recover. Now, done with the steroids, I think yes, I can recover. I don't know how much. I'm not there yet. I feel better and can walk, though not back to where I was. What will happen now? I will wait and work on walking. I will hope my fingers stop tingling.

Will I be ok? I'm not sure. I hope so. I know God isn't going to make a grand showing to say "Beth! You will be ok!!" But if I have patience to allow healing, some which occurs on its own, some that makes me work at it, then I will be as ok as I can be.

That note--I'll go look at it again tonight--a prayer of sorts. And part of it includes balancing emotions which are still off--happy, very nervous, sad, very angry, etc. They are balancing.

To where? I don't know. Life is a constant adventure where I feel like I'm on a ride down a river.