About ericabalko

I am alive because of Christ. I love science, nature, hiking, gardening, my hubby and boys, mountain biking, adventures in the woods and finding a great deal.

Finding the Magical

My dear reader, hello!  I have glimpses of the magical things when I look.  Almost two weeks ago the labs came back showing I’m depleted of: dopamine, serotonin, epinephrin, norepinephrine, glutamate, and cortisol. 

Whew!

Then more labs came back that I have iron deficiency anemia again.

And yet….

little by little

I am finding the magical.

Day by day I pour over the word of God in the Bible. Day by day I take the supplements my doctor gave me for adrenal dysfunction and neurotransmitter support.  Later this week I will get the first of 6 iron infusions to resolve my anemia.

Oh did I mention I have bleeding stomach ulcers to boot?

I tell you all of this not to discourage you but to ENCOURAGE you because through all of this God is my provision.

Have you looked at Instagram or a photographers’ beautiful work & caught yourself thinking it was magical?  You see something so lovely and seemingly unattainable.

Goodness knows that in the past months with how awful I’ve felt at times these images proved unbearable.  When you see those lovely things your brain releases dopamine and you feel just a little touch of bliss. However fleeting you do.

For a while I just didn’t.  Even now with my labs as they are it seems impossible that I could.

But today I did.

It snowed buckets for our part of the globe.  I peered out across our backyard and noticed our frozen hummingbird feeder topped with a lovely whip of snow.

Huzzah! The magical is here. Right before my eyes. I saw it. Truly I had that happy moment where I knew God is healing me because that little moment came over me like a warm lovely wave.

Perhaps you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes. Perhaps you have.  Either way, we can all relate to that surreal blog post somewhere with perfect photographs in idillic lighting.  We just need to slow down and see.

Really look.

Look at the little things in your part of the world; your little plot of land you call home.

He’s there if you look.

Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”IMG_0066.jpg

Dear Lord,

Truly it is as the Bible says.  You are our provision and all-in-all.  Praise be to your glorious name.  I trust you Lord and praise you for the healing you have done and the healing you are going to do.  You are wonderfully faithful, positively perfect and the everlasting hope for all mankind.  Thank you for helping me to experience you by the magical things you put within my reach.

Amen.

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Depression from Nadalol: life is full until it’s not.

Hello! My sweet reader. It has been so very long since I’ve sat down to write.  You see, life is just so full…

  • Homeschooling 7&8 year old boys is amazing and surreal
  • Keeping our chickens and frogs and dog is wonderful and stinky work.
  • Making a house a home takes CONSTANT attention as the gardens go wriggly and birds dig up my seeds!
  • Homeschool co-ops are a blessing and a commitment.
  • The continual search for myself beyond the words “wife” and “mother” proves a God size task.

 

Life is wonderfully full! I apologize as this just afforded me no room to write, for far too long.  I hummed along with my health conditions still buzzing in the background of life.  Doing the daily duties while working in endoscopies and appointments with this specialist and that.  Well, about a year ago I was assigned a hepatologist because I was informed my portal vein thrombosis (PVT) is a type of liver disease and I should be followed in case I may develop complications.  The first endoscopy revealed indeed, I had.  They found 3 very large esophageal varices.  They’re like varicose veins in your esophagus (the part that connects your throat to your stomach).  The protocol for this is to place rubber bands around them so they will slough off.  Then, start a blood pressure medication.  The medication is used in a sort of ‘off label’ fashion for me because I have low overall blood pressure… but, not in what remains of my portal system.  There the pressure is too high causing the bulging veins.  If the veins break, a life threatening bleed can result.  So, of course when the director of hepatology suggested I start a beta blocker called Nadalol I did just as he said.  I have two sons to raise and a full life to live. If Nadalol lowers my risk of a dangerous bleed then great!

I was told Nadalol relaxes vessel walls lowering the pressure.  I was not told the mechanism by which this happens.  Let me tell you what I know now. Nadalol blocks dopamine and norepinephrine.  Over time the receptors become dulled… and fewer in number.

But I didn’t know that then…

The first day on Nadalol I noticed I was exhausted and a bit down.  I told the director of hepatology and he advised me to give it time as my body would adjust.  The days went on and for 6 months I continued to take Nadalol 20mg once a day.  I developed migraines for the first time in my life and blurry vision.  Daily life became more and more gray.

Life was full until it just wasn’t anymore…

Depression and blurred vision are two common side effects of Nadalol.

But the prescribing doctor would not admit to this… I found this only after speaking with a pharmacist as I attempted to leave no stone unturned.  I used to be a joyful “doer” type.

Suddenly, I was just listless and joy eluded me.

I became withdrawn little by little until one day the spiritual attacks started. While standing in my kitchen chopping bell peppers the thought came over me like a storm, “You could end it.”  I was horrified. “What is wrong me?” I began to plead with God to make the cloud lift and to bring me through it. I could not understand how I would be in the grips of such an awful thought.  Just 6 years ago I fought to stay alive. I plead and prayed and begged to live.  Now the exact thing I vigilantly avoid for fear of a bleed is going through my mind as if it’s even an option.

In that moment, I knew I needed help!

Well, scripture says that God is faithful to provide a way of escape.  And He did.  Just then, my husband came through the door returning home from a long days’ work with no idea the assault I was under.  Praise the Lord the door opened.

I cried and told him what had happened. I told him I thought it was the Nadalol and I didn’t want to take it anymore. We talked about how that would be a huge risk. You know the bleed!?!

I prayed and prayed.  I contacted my hepatologist’s office. The original doctor had left the practice and a new one took over but I hadn’t met her yet.  I wrote to her anyway explaining the situation and by God’s grace she replied advising me to stop the medication.

She also never admitted the Nadolol causes depression…

We agreed the risks were outweighing the benefits.

At the next endoscopy they found not only more varices but new clotting to boot! The explanation I received for the clotting was that any time blood flow is slowed the conditions are favorable to clotting. I can only conclude the Nadalol also made the environment more suitable for clotting! Why? Well, it slowed my heart rate reducing the pressure and flow. As well, this is the first and only time I’ve developed new clotting since the sepsis that started this whole mess back in 2012. Now I cannot prove my assertion but I feel the circumstances point to the medication.

When I stopped Nadalol I experienced a week of 1-2 hour long anxiety attacks as the once blocked norepinephrine flooded my system. This went in combination with the weighty depression, blurred vision and spiritual attacks.

Thankfully, God provided a few very dear friends to come along side me through this dark night of the soul. I clung hard to the Scripture and saw every doctor I have in my care.

I was validated by my Naturopath who told me Nadalol had depression and blurred vision listed as possible side effects. I will tell you I was afraid to tell her I was struggling so. I had this notion she’d deem me unfit and send me to the hospital to be inpatient. Instead she simply said the medication caused my symptoms and she’d put me on supportive therapy to rebalance my system and stop the scary thoughts of doom and gloom.

I am more and more myself every day. I am following God’s perfect promises and resting in His care. Daily I try to create beauty in some small way and replace every fiery dart from the devil with the living word of God.

I will leave you with this great wisdom a dear friend gave me…

I am not my own. I was bought at a price.

Because of this I’m free from the bondage of sin and a servant to the almighty God. He will never leave me nor forasake me.

My friend, the same is true for you.

love,

Erica

Dear Jesus,

I’m beginning to understand why you allowed this suffering to come. You’ve shown your perfect love to me again through this awful time. I rejoice that I love myself in a new way I couldn’t before because I better understand how you see me. Oh Lord God almighty thank you for carrying me through the scary times and anxiety and fear. Your word tells us not to fear more than anything else. You know our weakness and thank you for helping me to understand your strength more and more. Amen.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

 

The Significance of 6! Jesus and Lego’s

There’s something very significant about turning 6! Who knew?!? I anticipated planning a party, buying supplies and singing “Happy Birthday” to our boy. What I didn’t know was that he would become a Christian and learn to build Lego sets alone.

Just a week before Hank’s 6th birthday we went through the Roman’s Road with him:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation of everyone that believeth…” Romans 1:16

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans: 623

“But God commented his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

As I read each verse and paused, looking up at Hank to see what he thought, he professed with his own words that he believed.

I have both joy and trepidation for my son. He will live the rest of his life with the perfect intercessor. He will have the Word of God to rely upon. But, he will also be guaranteed suffering by which the Lord will proof his faith like silver in the fire.

Dear Sweet Hank,

As your momma, I cannot be more proud of your acceptance, belief and confession of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Don’t take it lightly, you will need your savior dearly at times of suffering and even in times of abounding joy. Your daddy momma and brother are here for you no matter what, to point you back to Jesus. I pray you will read the living Word of God and from it draw strength for the great purpose God has for you.

love,

Momma

On Hank’s 6th birthday, March 15th 2016, we went to Barnes and Noble bookstore and purchased The Action Bible so Hank can begin his daily discipline of reading the Word of God. I am proud of him.

IMG_20160315_142944_edit
Hank holding his new Bible on his 6th Birthday

The following Saturday, Hank had his birthday party as planned (despite my having recently recovered from pneumonia and three of us fighting head colds). He had a wonderful time celebrating with 10 of his good friends at the Dojo where he takes Karate. I must say I really enjoyed it too. There’s a cool joy that comes from watching your child having fun. It trumps almost every kind of joy I can think of (beside the Joy that comes from the Lord, that one wins hands down). Hank received wonderful gifts too. Among them were three lego sets.

Pardon my tangential backstory for a moment:

Several months ago, I asked Hank how he and I can connect more and he said he really likes building Lego sets with me. I took that seriously and decided I would purposely help him with his future sets. I want to do whatever I can to foster meaningful life giving relationship with my boys because I know the benefit will be more than I can measure with regards to their sense of assuredness in life. Plus, I really Super Duper love them and want to enjoy them as much as possible.

After the party we went home and started building legos. To my surprise, Hank was doing them all on his own! I was both excited for his new skill and nostalgic.

Have I missed my chance to build lego’s with him!?!?!

Thankfully, he still enjoyed me sitting by his side as I sat in awe of his ability to follow the instructions step-by-step to completion. I love him so much.

6 is significant! Hank has been maturing right before my eyes. I’ve seen him choose to be generous with his brother. When I ask him to do something, without complaint, he helps me (more and more often). He is becoming a light in this world as he learns more and more how to reflect Jesus.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for bringing Hank to you. I am so very thankful that he will have you to rely upon all the days of his life. I pray Lord for his future family too. Please bless Hank as he grows. I pray he will one day marry a woman who loves you too and together they will see their children love and serve you. Thank you for the gift it is to be Hank’s momma. In you I am delighted and humbled. Amen.

If I was the Devil…

I just listened to this video today.  My heart is heavy for mankind.  We HAVE to get right with Jesus. Before you brush this off as one more Bible thumping, consider what I stand to gain by telling you, you need Jesus.  If I wanted to get for myself, if I were purely evil in motivation, so consumed by my own agenda

well

If I was the Devil…

I’d tell you your “Universe” talk and blatant disregard of God’s commands were good.  I’d support you and sit by smiling and watching.  I’d revel quietly in your agony.  I’d stand by and let you destroy yourself with your ‘new truth’ and your pride.  Then, when you were ruined, you couldn’t blame me because you did it to yourself.

Jesus the God of the Bible, is the way the truth and the life.  Not one of us will get to God except through Jesus.  I cannot omit this from my heart or withhold it from a world so desperately wallowing in filth and ignorance.  So many are completely blind to the perfect completed love of Jesus.  So many are striving for diety’s that do not exist or are constructs of Satan.

From the bottom of my heart I emplor you to get right with Jesus.  Lay it all at his feet and seek Him for what He comnands is good.  Every other compass will not sustain you, will not fulfill you.

God SPOKE all of creation into existence.  What evil has God ever caused you?  Search your heart, why do you hold your hurts against your creator?  Take it all to him, he can handle it.

It is Finished.

Dear Jesus,

I pray for those who wander lost, especially those who think they’ve found their way without you.  I pray for your protection and peace.  Please rescue our nation.  Amen.

Momma, tell me about your owies again…

Have you ever heard yourself teaching your child and learned too?  Hank has been asking about my enlarged spleen and liver a lot lately.  We often tell our boys to be very careful around me because I have “owies” in my tummy.

This morning while laying on the sofa snuggling with Hank, he asked me to tell him about my owies again.  I explained,

“Momma has two owies.  They’re kinda like water balloons that are too full.  If you push on them too hard they’ll pop.  Then momma will need to go to the hospital.”

Hank, “What will they do?”

Me, “They’ll open my tummy and take out the popped balloon.”

Hank, “Why?”

Me, “Well, do you reuse a popped water balloon?”

Hank, “Oh! No. Then what happens?”

Me, “Then we wait and trust God to make me better again.”

Then we went back to snuggling.  I heard myself tell him we would trust God to make me better and he just accepts that.  Its beautiful.  But for me its tough, you see, for me that is a HUGE call to faith that I live out every day.

We ALL will have our call to faith.  If only we can have faith like a child.

Matthew 18:3, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like a children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I am writing this to you as we await test results from our veterinarian.  We adopted a dog named Sadie over Easter.  She has been a wonderful, playful, voracious eater until recently.  I suspect that she has eaten dirt that is contaminated with antifreeze.  Antifreeze causes kidney failure in dogs.  Now the call to faith feels big as we wait on the labs.

I am also writing this to you as my sisters’ significant other, Steve, is in the hospital with heart problems.  He has been there a few days and they cannot figure out why his heart rate won’t stabilize.  Add to that his white blood cell count is elevated.

THE CALL TO FAITH IS EVERYWHERE!

Why must the call be so big?

What is your call to faith?

Dear Jesus,  I feel it.  You are the mighty king and you can bear our burdens.  You tell us to lay our burdens down and take up yours, that which you give us is light.  But Lord, it doesn’t feel so easy.  I want to fear.  Please set my eyes on you.  Help us all to have faith like a child.  Amen.

My First Devotional, The Secret

Today I am sharing with you the very first devotional I have written.  May God meet you right where you are today.  ❤

True Hope Comes from Christ’s Strength

We don’t muster it ourselves.

We have probably all heard someone say, “I can do all things through Christ.” But do we know the verse that precedes that? What about the words that complete the phrase “I can do all things through Christ”?

Philippians 4:12-13 says,
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Paul is writing to the Philippians from his jail cell. Imagine what he may have been experiencing? Isolation. Hunger. Pain. Sickness. And Hope!?!

When we think of Hope, can we imagine the type of Hope Paul experienced? Think of a way that you desperately need Jesus, a way that you just aren’t enough. There is hope.

I had a pancreas tumor removed in 2012. I went from being told “you’re young and healthy” to 115 pounds & wrecked by illness. I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself. My doctors were at a loss. I cried out begging God for deliverance. For better circumstances. My Mom, in her wisdom said to have Faith when you cannot see. I remember the fight I had inside my body during those months of agony. Never before had I experienced my flesh at war with me and yet God seemed to keep me there. Not healing me, not letting me die. It was a hard truth to face. During that time and even to this day, I have many very dear Bible verses. God is faithful. Philippians 4:12-13 means SO much to me. I hung on every word of verse 12. When everything was stripped away, all my earthly strength and comfort, I finally intimately knew the secret of facing such things. I have been a Christian as long as I can remember. The secret isn’t becoming a Christian. The secret is Hope. The Hope of the Bible, the steadfast kind that comes when we know God sustains us and gives us strength despite all odds.

As you can see, I am still here. God has granted me partial deliverance from my physical sufferings. I can see the gift it is to remember. I look at my surgery scars and still feel pain. Because I know the secret that Paul speaks of I have Hope. Not the fleeting kind we think of when we say, “I hope tomorrow is sunny.”

Paul’s words are not a self-help statement or some type of trite pep talk. Paul is telling us of the everlasting, eternal, deep, rich, vibrant, redeeming Hope; hope in Jesus’ perfect strength.

Dear Jesus,
Help us to rest in your word. To experience your deep HOPE through the truths you teach us. Jesus, help us to lay our fears at your feet and know that we can even suffer well like Paul by knowing your steadfastness. Lord, you strengthen us, you sustain us. Jesus, because of your strength we can face all things both wonderful and tragic. Amen.

W is for Whale, Homeschooling Boys at 3 and 4 years old.

In all, our “school time” looks different day-to-day.  Today we did worksheets, but I prefer to teach in context.  For example, when driving next to a train loaded full with cargo containers two-high to a car, I explained to the boys how we can count by two’s.  This made it easier for them to see a real-world application of this mathematical principal.

We also work collaboratively with two other family’s in a co-op that meets weekly.  We teach on a rotating basis and follow this free curriculum.  So far, we have all really liked it.  But, in the spirit of adventure, I find myself supplementing the curriculum often.

JUST BECAUSE I CAN 🙂

Homeschooling is so RAD in this way.  We can do what we want when we want.

Hank loves school because its his way of getting out of “quiet time” (nap)  and doing something one-on-one with me.  I prefer keeping the definition of school loose so as to incorporate real world learning and supplement with worksheets as needed.  I don’t know if I’d say we are Un-Schooling , but perhaps a little.

I expect our homeschooling journey to morph and take shape as we go along through the years.  I love that there’s no pressure to get it all right on the first try.

Together we are LEARNING.

W is for whale

W is for whale 2

We started homeschooling in September (2014). While we’ve only been at this a few months I have to say its off to a good start. I love how we can tailor it to our day.

Today the boys worked through “W is for Whale”. In this lesson we traced big “W” and baby “w”, colored a whale, and practised a worksheet on matching capital A, B, C and D to their lower case pair. Then we talked about the letter W and practised saying the “wahhh” sound several times alone and in words. I find repetition is super helpful for my boys. I don’t worry about them wiggling or getting up and sitting down a bunch at this stage.

I have VERY active boys so I feel it is unneccessary to spend our learning time focusing on mastery of impulse control (I have a neurology background and know that it’s a futile effort with such young minds). Instead, I use short and frequent phrases to bring their attention back to the task at hand. I intentionally give praise and attention in response to desirable behavior (thank B.F. Skinner and his theory on Operant Conditioning for that wisdom) and move along when I see they are no longer able to attend.

A friend of mine (who has a teaching background) told me that children can attend to a task 1 minute for each year they are old.  With that in mind our focus on a given task is only 3-4 minutes!  Then we move along.  Its fun and pretty fast paced.

I love that today, Hank told me to leave him alone while writting his letters because he wanted to do it all by himself.  Big boy!  Just two weeks ago he wouldn’t try unless I did hand-over-hand with him.

I’m really enjoying leading them but letting them experience the feeling of doing things as they are ready.  I don’t pressure them but I do encourage them A LOT. 😉

Dear Jesus, please help us to learn with joyful hearts.  Please help me to have wisdom to teach what you want the boys to know.  I pray for great mentors and above all a passion and thirst for learning.  Amen.

Zombie

T’was the morn before Halloween

I just stumbled and staggered around

So tired I made a long moaning sound

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

My eyes glued shut from Mr. Sand Man’s dust

No coffee in the land

But search blindly I must

Arms outstretched, not yet really me.

But wait there’s some!

Happy Hallows Eve!

ULMas 1st Anniversary, Let’s Have a Happy Hour All Day!

I am the designer and owner of ULMas brand Beautifully Practical Breast Pads!  I designed them a few years back because I felt truly discrete, leak-proof, absorbent and pretty nursing pads should be a reality.  But, when I searched high and low I couldn’t find any that fit the bill.  Perhaps I had a high standard but I figured with a little a lot of work I could make just the solution come to fruition.

Once I got the design ironed out and tested thoroughly, I obtained a business license and launched Undercover Leaky Mommas on Etsy.  Well, that was a year ago already.  I can hardly believe the year we’ve had too.  I have learned a TON about on-line sales, tax codes, sourcing, time management, pr, marketing and SEO and inventory. I’ve learned how to do my own invoicing, how to anticipate sales and trends in fashion.
I’ve just been flying full speed into a huge market and the best part?

I get to do what I set out to do:

Help other mommas!

I love that other mommas don’t have to drive somewhere with their newborn or settle for whatever’s on the shelf at their local chain store.

All they need to do is visit my shop purchase the pads they like and soon thereafter they can have Nursing Pads that Really Work!

ULMas "Zebra" Print

ULMas “Zebra” Print

Along with having our first anniversary, Today Marks the beginning of National Breastfeeding Week.

As a way to celebrate these things, I have decided to give everyone a Happy Hour all day!  With this event every ULMas customer gets BOGO on all ULMas brand nursing pads all day today! ❤  Head over to ULMas on Etsy and Enter the code: “HappyHour” in the coupon code field at checkout to Buy One Get One Free on all ULMas Breast Pads!

Thanks for reading and thank you for your support!

Erica, ULMas

LogoBrownFill

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Etsy

Dear Jesus,  Thank you above all for sustaining me each day. Thank you that I get to do something that helps other mommas out.  I love raising my boys and being a homemaker.  I love the life you have given me. Amen.

A Mother’s Love

Educated or so I thought
Asked a million questions
Questions I haven’t sought
Need I answer them?
Again and Again?
To a future man who doesn’t know
the complexities of why businesses come or go.
When this pupil becomes distraught
I the momma must enter a battle that’s already fought.
Silently my heart cries out
His words so strong
Inwardly I ask, “God what’s gone wrong?”
Rest in me, I hear so clear.
Rest in me, my dear.
Slowing down I pull into a parking spot.
Out I step.
Out my eldest boy does too.
Kneeling down to his height.
I ask why I am seeing such a sight.
He pleads for no consequence.
God’s love in my heart I give grace instead.
Sadly, I know his heart is a wreck.
Silent prayers he never hears.
While I hold back motherly tears.
The Lord’s love for us might be like this.
While we whirl out of control.
He’s quiet, heart heavy.
He knows what we need before we think we’re ready.
Rest in Him, I know I must.
In God’s sovereign love I can trust.
I trust you Jesus to always keep this treasure in your care.
Because I know that you were there.
Please grow him to be strong in faith and write on in his heart what you speak.
May he be a man of character, gentle, humble and meek.
I pray he leads many.
I pray he leads well even when there aren’t any.
Please strengthen my heavy heart to know
You are trustworthy.
So endure these heart breaking moments I must.
Knowing one day the fruit will bear.
Knowing you, Lord, will be there.