Sunday, August 21, 2011


Surviving seems to be what I am doing best these days. I am taking every day as it comes, and doing my best to be what I need to be. Whether it is caretaker for a friend, housekeeper, laundress, dishwasher, babysitter, wife, mom, etc. I am wearing many hats. Fortunately, the hats seem to be fitting fairly well!
We have completed our first week back at school. I am now the mom of a fifth grader, a second grader, a kindergartener and a junior kindergartener. Yikes!

Everyone is loving their new teachers and even Vibiana isn't too upset about having to be at school without Sebastian. Sebastian, my kindergartener, is having a wonderful time. Every day this week, when I ask him how his day was, the response is always "Awesome!" So glad to hear it. This is Sebastian with his two best buddies, the three amigos.

As far as my health goes, I am... maintaining. I had a horrible RA flare a few months back and at that time it was discovered that I also have Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). AS is essentially RA in the back/spine and is quite painful. Treatment is the same as RA, so my doc just upped my meds a bit and I was feeling great. I have spent all summer feeling better than ever. Then, my liver started misbehaving so we had to reduce one of my fairly crucial meds. I am now not feeling so hot, but manageable. Hopefully, after a few normal liver tests, I will be able to increase my meds to feel better again.

I am, thankfully, able to spend a lot of time with Suzanne during this period of recovery. She completed her whole brain radiation and we now have to wait until November to see if it reduced the tumors. In the meantime, she had a PET scan and got the best scan results she has ever had. No new or troublesome spots anywhere. Praise God! Please keep those prayers coming.

The next few weeks will be back to our "normal" busy. Darian is starting cross country, I think I may start Sophia in gymnastics, and I will be kept occupied with my duties as Kindergarten head room mom. It's going to be a great school year!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I am so blessed

I know I haven't posted in quite awhile now. I have no good excuse, and I will not muddy up this post for my pithy little reasons for laziness. I will save all that for another post.

Many of you know that my dear friend Suzanne has been successfully battling breast cancer for the last 18 months (you can follow her blog here). A few months ago, she had a flare up in her ribs and spine that was treated with radiation. Radiation was successful. However, recently, we have had a huge setback. Last week, an MRI revealed 15 tumors in her brain. She had been on a miracle trial drug, TDM1, but this advancement has kicked her off the trial. She is now on Decadron, Tykerb, and whole brain radiation. At the beginning of this new phase of treatment the doctor warned her that she was going to feel miserable, lose all her hair (which until now she had been able to keep), and not be able to care for her children for about 4 months. Within days, Suzanne began to really feel the effects.

From the moment we learned of her diagnosis, our community has banded together to offer any and all kids of help. One friend set up a website (on Mealtrain) to schedule meals. As of today, this family will have meals halfway through September. Suzanne has been inundated with calls, texts, and emails of well wishes, prayers, and many offerings of help. We are asking anyone and everyone to please pray for her. Jason has written a beautiful guide for a holy hour dedicated to Suzanne's healing. You can find it here. With school quickly approaching, we had one friend offer to do the school supply shopping. For 5 school age kids, that is no small task!

As for my own part in all of this, I have taken on the role of personal assistant. I am handling scheduling, driving when needed, and general help. I have been driving Suzanne to UCLA about once a week for a couple of months now for her treatments. Right now, I am with her far more often, and honestly, I couldn't be happier.

Sounds odd, doesn't it? Hanging out with my (potentially) terminally ill friend is a good time? In reality, it is. Not to say that it isn't difficult, especially seeing her with her children. Sometimes, it will suddenly blindside me that these beautiful children may not have their mother for much longer. But, then I look at the example that she is setting for all of us, and I am overwhelmed with a feeling of being so blessed. Blessed to be her friend, blessed to be able to help her and her family through this difficult time. I know she is concerned about me getting burned out, but I am truly so glad to be able to help her. As difficult as the situation is, Suzanne and her family bring me an incredible amount of joy.

And I'm not scared for her. Obviously, I am praying for a complete healing. But, there is also the harsh reality that she may not be with us by the end of the year. While it brings me grief, I know that the grief is for us here and her children, not for her. She is the most beautiful soul I know, and I have no doubts that she will be in eternal happiness and joy when she leaves this world.

Please forgive me if my posts are sparse over the next few months. God is calling me to be with Suzanne as much as possible, so that's where I will be.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Punishment? What about Love?

I haven't blogged in quite a while. It isn't that the blog has been abandoned or because I gave it up for Lent, it's just that my Lent ended up being a tad more hectic that I had originally planned. Funny how that works. I had all sorts of plans for my own sacrifices and mortifications for Lent, but starting Ash Wednesday, God clearly laughed at my plans and set His own in motion.

My number one project/ministry has been helping a very good friend of mine who is in a highly abusive marriage. I won't give details, because some readers know her and she isn't quite ready to face the world with her problems yet. She is a wonderful, loving person and an incredible mother. However, she has spent so many years being told the opposite, that she has come to believe it. Like nearly all abusive relationships, she has been on this roller coaster of emotions - when things are great they are great, but when things are bad they are really bad. She has developed her method of coping, which has been to convince herself when things are good, that the bad wasn't really that bad. On Ash Wednesday she called me, in near hysterics, after they had a fight. The things that he said to her, the emotional abuse involved, finally convinced my friend that she needed to seek help. I had been encouraging her for months and months to see a good, Catholic counselor that I knew, and she finally called me for the information to set up her appointment.

From there, it has been an extremely painful, emotional process for both of us. The more details I learn (and I knew quite a bit before) the more horrified I am that someone could actually treat their wife and children so disgustingly. And still, she stays. Still, she questions if things are really that bad. Still, she claims to love him. There are some breaks in the armor, some scales falling from her eyes, but it is a slow and (for me) frustrating process. Here is a woman, so beautiful inside and out, so loving and caring, so willing to give everything that she has for her family and friends, and so horribly abused by the one person who should be willing to give her everything in return.

One of the statements she made to me recently, which just broke a piece of my heart, was that she felt that all these years, all this abuse, was God's punishment to her for some of her decisions and actions from before she was married. Her husband, of course, knows of these actions and continually throws them in her face during arguments, and sometimes just makes snide comments even when they are not arguing.

How can I get her to understand that God is not punishing her, that He loves her? It's such an ingrained, basic part of my faith, that GOD IS LOVE, that I have a hard time understanding anyone not understanding that. Especially today, on this Good Friday, when God gave us everything through his Son. All the love and forgiveness in the entire universe was given to us on this day. The greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice, all for us undeserving people. None of our mistakes matter, none of our past actions matter, because our Lord died on that cross for us. He loves us enough that he was tortured and killed for OUR mistakes. He loves each and every one of us so much so as to have given us everything he had, not only here on earth, but He continues to give us everything from his place in Heaven. All we have to do is trust in Him and He will provide for us. The provisions may not be what we thought we wanted, and they may come in unexpected packages, but through our Lord we are promised to be loved and provided for.

"You are full of weaknesses. Every day you see them more clearly. But don't let them frighten you. He well knows you can't yield more fruit.
Your involuntary falls - those of a child - show your Father God that he must take more care, and your Mother Mary that she must never let you go from her loving hand. Each day, as our Lord picks you up from the ground, take advantage of it, embrace him with all your strength and lay your wearied head on his open breast so that you'll be carried away by the beating of his most loving heart."
- St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way #884

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Do you think my kids are a bit religious?

This afternoon, Sebastian and Vibiana were organizing themselves for playing house. I hear discussion on Vibiana being the sister and Sebastian being the dad. Then, I hear Sebastian say that Ari (the dog) can be Jesus.

At first, I am more than a bit horrified that they felt the dog was a suitable Jesus.

Then I decided instead that it was pretty great that they felt the need to include Jesus in their pretend home.

Then I peek around the corner and see the dog passed out asleep. Sebastian says, "Ari will make a great statue!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


"Only the stupid are obstinate: the very stupid are very obstinate."
- St. Josemaria, The Furrow #274

Though I have been doing my best not to be stupid, I fear that instead I have, in part, been very stupid.

I have been in the midst of one of my worst RA flares since early Saturday, although looking back, it probably really started around Ash Wednesday. On Saturday morning my pain was bad so I took some pain meds and, deciding this really was a flare, increased my dreaded prednisone. Then I felt a bit better and decided to do housework. I had been planning on getting this housework done all week, and finally I was home to do it so I was going to do it. I swept, mopped, and even vacuumed. Obviously, this was a mistake.

Sunday, I could not get out of bed with severe pain. I needed my cane to walk, and every step was exruciating. Jason had to go down to the Cathedral in LA and Darian had a birthday party to go to. I sent them on their way and stayed home with the three younger kids. Jason offered to stay home and my friend who was taking Darian to the party offered to take all the kids, but I refused both. Because, of course, I CAN DO IT!

By Sunday evening, everything hurts. Every part of my body aches, every joint is painful to move (and swollen) and the costochondritis makes it hard to breathe. My frustration is increasing with every moment - I had things I wanted to get done this weekend and I hadn't accomplished any of them! All I had been able to do was sit around. Jason came home with Darian and an admonishment from my friend that she WAS going to help me this week. So, with much difficulty, I gave in. I made arrangements for Jason to drop the school kids at her house early in the morning with plans for her to also take them home with her and then bring them to Jason at the evening mass. The little ones and I would stay home and take it easy. In my mind, I am thinking that by Monday afternoon, the prednisone would be working and I will be feeling better.

Long story short, today is Wednesday and I am still not feeling great. I am still using my cane, although each step doesn't bring the intense pain I was having. I am so resistant to asking for help, but, thankfully, help has been forced upon me. Jason took the week off of work to stay home with me and my friend Suzanne is helping with the school kids. I am always so stubborn about A) recognizing the beginnings of a flare and therefore starting meds soon enough, especially pain meds and B) asking for help. I always want to do it all. I get so frustrated at not being able to do simple things - laundry, dishes, make beds, cook meals. This flare has helped me realize that not only can I not do this alone, but I need to not hesitate to admit when my body is failing me. It will happen. It will continue to happen. Instead of cursing the disease, I need to change my reaction to the disease. The disease is what it is. It's my actions that will either make it a miserable experience or a fruitful one.

"When our vision is clouded, when our eyes have lost their clarity, we need to go to the light. And Jesus Christ has told us that he is the Light of the world and that he has come to heal the sick.
That is why your weaknesses and your falls - when God allows them - should not separate you from Christ, but rather draw you closer to him."
- St. Josemaria, The Forge #158

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Feeling a bit tired?

One of the most debilitating of my RA complications is fatigue. It can sometimes be very frustrating when most people don't understand what fatigue is and how it differs from simply feeling tired due to lack of sleep. One of my Facebook RA friends found this article and I strongly encourage everyone to read it.

Mastering the Impact of Fatigue

Monday, March 7, 2011

Brace yourself

for another bout of my whining.

For the last few days, I have been having chest pain. Not quite like a heart attack (although I can't say for sure since I have never had a heart attack) but more like a "bone" pain in my sternum/rib area. It is mostly a dull ache, unless I sneeze, cough, or breathe deep, in which case it is a painful stabbing sensation. I have quite a few online "friends" from the Rheumatoid Arthritis groups who have had similar symptoms, so I reached out to them and tentatively self-diagnosed costochondritis - inflammation in the cartilage between the ribs and sternum.

Today, I spoke to my rheumatologist on the phone and he confirmed my diagnosis. The usual course of treatment is high doses of steroid (I am already on a low dose and hate it) and rest (haha!) but he agreed that I could just leave it untreated for the time being as long as the pain is tolerable and the symptoms don't get worse. At this point, it is uncomfortable, but I really really don't want to increase my prednisone (steroid). The prednisone tends to make me hungry for sweets (not good for Lent), upsets my stomach, and makes me really moody (yes, more moody than normal). I will go see my doc in two weeks and we will re-evaluate the situation then. If I haven't improved then he will put me on a high dose of the prednisone for a few weeks. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that.

In the meantime, I will be avoiding all strenuous activity and just relax. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Epic Fail

Do you ever have one of those days when, if your life were a movie, it would be some dark, comedic tragedy? And you look at the clock and realize it's only 10 am?

I won't bore you with details, but suffice it to say that this is one of those days when, just when I feel like things are going alright, something happens to completely derail everything. It doesn't even have to be one major thing, but little things that just keep accumulating can be just as dangerous. I am trying so hard to do the right thing, stay on the right path and be a good person, and then life happens and craps all over my good intentions.

So, on this beautiful, sunshiny day I have already had harsh words with someone, tried not to panic over a (mostly minor) financial crisis, and discovered Ari the wonder dog had managed to get himself into the bathroom and consume half a roll of toilet paper. I don't want to know what comes next.

I know that, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor blips on my road. I am going to take a few deep breaths, say a few heartfelt prayers, start fresh and enjoy this glorious day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A puppy and the plague

is what has been occupying the Schalow family this past week.

The flu is once again working its way through our family. Sophia started it, then Jason, then Sebastian, then Darian and Vibiana. We are now on the tail end of it, I hope. I didn't get sick, but we are not out of the woods yet. Darian and Vibiana are still running fevers and I am taking Darian in to the doctor this afternoon because I suspect his congestion has turned into a sinus infection.

And the puppy? A bundle of cuteness, that's for sure. Jason has wanted an English Mastiff for years now, and I finally caved. We picked up our little guy last Wednesday. He is now 12 weeks old, weighing in at about 15 lbs. Both of his parents are show dogs, with his dad (not yet full grown) weighing in at 160 lbs and his grandfather weighing in at 210 lbs. Our guy, Ari, will be enormous when he's done growing. He is very mellow and very sweet. Now we just have to work on house training him. With Vibiana potty trained I thought I was done cleaning up poop. Guess not.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

San Gabriel Mission

This year, Darian is in fourth grade. You know what that means for this California boy - Mission project!
This is a projects especially close to my heart since my family descends from California Indians. Our tribe is the Cahuillas, originally from the Hemet area, "transferred" to the San Gabriel Mission. My mom and some of her cousins have done a little research and have tracked down many family members born and baptized at the Mission, starting in the early/mid 1800's. Knowing this, Darian chose Mission San Gabriel for his project. So, yesterday, I drove all the kids down to the mission for some research.
First off, can I just say that driving to San Gabriel from the Antelope Valley with 4 excited kids in the car is an adventure all its own. But, we made it. Darian was really excited to go through the cemetery first, but that didn't last long since my two little ones decided to play leap frog with the flat headstones. Not exactly respectful, especially for the people who were there visiting their families. So off we went to the main part of the mission. We walked through the gardens, saw the old well, aqueduct and outdoor fire pits. They have a really nice little museum that I was not able to fully appreciate because Vibiana decided that was a perfect place to jump up and down (she liked the noise it made on the old wooden floors). There was a funeral taking place in the church itself, so we weren't able to go in yet. We went for some lunch, and when we came back we were able to go inside the church. I love the simplicity of the missions, but Darian loved all the ornate decoration up in the sanctuary, especially the huge sanctuary lamp. He was most impressed with the baptismal font - a beaten copper basin that has been in use since the late 1700's. His eyes were huge as he touched it and said, "Wow, Mom. Our ancestors were baptized right here."
As we were leaving, he grabbed a baggie that was in the car and ran back to the cemetery to grab a few handfuls of dirt - he wants to put official mission dirt on his project. It was a long drive, and a heck of a lot of walking around for me, but totally worth it to see his appreciation and excitement.

The cemetery entrance

One of a pair of plaques on either side of the arched cemetery entrance. The other is in Spanish.

This is one of a handful of hand carved tombstones. Pretty cool.

The walkway from the cemetery to the old Mission church

The front of the church. The man in front is from the mortuary and wouldn't let anyone in.

The kids in front of a replica of a hut that would have been lived in.