July 2010


I’m a reader. I. Love. To. Read. I read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, cereal boxes, the Fine Print. (Heck, I even read my husband’s Popular Mechanics.) I practically drool over the Best Seller’s Lists, and I’m constantly making my own lists of books that I’ve seen commented on in print or heard about from family or friends. 

I don’t ever remember a time in my life when I didn’t enjoy reading, or that I didn’t have something to read nearby. It has been noted on several occasions that I exited the womb twenty days late in the heat of August. I can only imagine that I was curled up with a good book and didn’t want to leave until I had finished it.

Years ago, I watched a made for television movie on Catherine the Great. I was so impressed and curious about her and Russian history in general, that I ended up reading every book I could get my hands on regarding the Czars of Russia predating Ivan the Terrible and going all the way through the assassination of Nicholas II. It was a feast for the mind.

That said, imagine my surprise and dismay when in early January I realized that over the course of the entire preceding year I had read three (count them…one, two, three) books (not including children’s board books of which I’d read MANY). It had been a busy year and I had let other things – some important, and some, not so much – take priority. Now January was here and bringing with it a stack of unread books and magazines taunting me from seemingly every room in the house. My brain cried out for nourishment. There was only one thing to do…

I set a goal.

You were thinking resolution, I know you were, but I don’t like resolutions. However, I do love goals! So I set a goal of reading one book a month for the entire year. Then I set another goal to beat my first goal. I’m happy to report that I’m well on my way to achieving both goals. Follow my progress on my Book Shelf page, and tell me what you are reading right now. I am always lusting after the next great read.

Earlier today the phrase “early warning signals” popped into my head, and being a certified Google-holic I had to type it into the search bar. I got 2,200,000 hits in 0.39 seconds. Wow.

According to my good buddy Mr. Google, there are early warning signs, signals, and systems for just about topic that one can imagine. If you think about that for a moment, it’s extremely reassuring. There are signals that warn you of a problem in advance. You just have to be open to receiving what the signals are telling you and then take action.

This is significant to me because over the last couple weeks I’ve been receiving my own personal early warning signals. I’ve felt a little off, I have woken up just as tired as when I went to bed, I have had aches and pains that I don’t normally have. After asking myself for the millionth time “What’s wrong with you Donna?” I put the question on the back burner of my brain to stew up an answer and thankfully it did.

The answer wasn’t pretty, but it was truthful. I’ve gotten slack. I’ve fallen out of the routine of healthy habits, and I’ve allowed a number of significant stressors in my life weigh me down creating a vicious cycle of more stress and less healthy habits. I have Crohn’s Disease so being vigilante about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing my stress are (and should be) my top priorities, yet every once in a while I get too comfortable in my current “healthy” status and develop a case of the lazies. 

The early warning signals that I have been experiencing the past few weeks are my body’s way of telling me to stop, regroup, and get back on track before I throw myself into a flair up of my illness. 

I’ve had Crohn’s for about ten years now. Early on I went through a period of denial and ended up paying for that attitude with a sixteen-month nightmare. Educating myself about Crohn’s and realizing that my situation could always be worse were the first steps in the path to a healthier and happier lifestyle. Since then I’ve stayed mostly on track.

Today started off badly, but now that I’ve recognized what is going on; I know what steps I need to take to correct my path. I’m grateful that my body has its own built in Early Warning System and that I’ve finally learned how to interpret its signals.

Years ago I read an article about a famous actress who, upon meeting a new person, would say “tell me a story about you.” Though I never put the concept into practice myself, it has always lingered in the back of my mind as an intriguing way to get to know someone. So, without further ado, here is a story about me…

I grew up in the outer suburbs of a mid-sized East Coast city. We lived in a typical rancher on a good-sized lot with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, grapevines, and the occasional goat or rabbit in the backyard. It wasn’t a perfect life, but it was a great place to grow up. Eventually, I packed up and moved to the outer suburbs of a really big East Coast city and began life as a commuter, but I always considered that little rancher with the backyard oasis to be home. Well, that is until the day my Dad sold it and moved back to the place he considered to be home.

My Dad grew up on a farm in a rural community where everybody knows everybody, and you know who is coming to visit by the sound of their car coming up the road. Dad left the farm after high school, did a stint in the Navy, worked as a machinist for a huge conglomerate, and drove racecars and flew airplanes for fun, all the while knowing he would one day return to that farm. He began preparing a couple years before retirement, and when the day came he was ready. He and my stepmom packed up the last of their belongings that hadn’t already been sold or moved, put the house on the market (it sold fast) and moved to the country. Now Dad does pretty much whatever he wants, including help his brothers tend the family farm.

Recently I packed up the car and my toddler, gave my husband a kiss goodbye and headed down for a visit. It’s a two-hour trip on the best of days so I always plan for an overnight stay. It’s a quiet, relaxing place to be, and always a nice change of pace from my usually hectic life. Major activities on any given visit include hanging out, chewing the fat (talking politics), getting hotdogs from the local joint, and taking the baby for a ride down to the creek on the golf cart.

On this particular visit, my daughter and I arrived late, didn’t sleep well, and woke early the next morning tired and very groggy. (Okay, I was tired and groggy, she was a ball of energy.) While it was still fairly early, two of my uncles and an aunt came by to say hello, and while they chatted with my Dad, I tried to stay conscious, follow the conversation as best as I could, and keep my daughter from destroying anything.

Staying awake was a losing battle until someone said, “Why is there a cow across the road?” 

Across the road is a field, not a pasture, so this snapped everyone to attention – even me. My Dad walked over to the front door and peeked out, and suddenly it was pandemonium. It wasn’t just one cow in the field, it was nearly all the cows, and they weren’t just across the road – they were down the road, in the garden, everywhere except the pasture.

As we soon learned, a 40-foot branch from an enormous oak tree had fallen length-wise on the pasture fence that ran along the road beside my Dad’s house. We hadn’t heard a sound, but the cows, normally mellow and lackadaisical, had smelled the sweet breeze of freedom and had one by one climbed across that giant branch out into the road and gone about their merry way.

Cows can do a lot of damage in a garden or field, but as seriously as I tried to take the situation, I couldn’t help but be amused watching my uncles chase the cows on foot through the fields, while my dad rounded them up using the golf cart. Two thoughts kept running through my head: I wish I had my camera right now, and, run cow run! Looking back on the situation, I wonder if I have lived the city life too long when I empathize more with a bunch of renegade cows than I do with my family members trying to round them up.

As I packed up to leave that afternoon, my Dad apologized for the “crazy” day it had been. I chuckled and thought to myself as I drove away, no need to apologize, because a crazy day on the farm beats a crazy day in the city anytime.