Guest Post: The anniversary of when everything changed-life with fibromyalgia (Living with chronic illness series)

Living withChronic Illness

Note from Jamie: It’s been a while since I’ve had a guest post in my Living with Chronic Illness series and I’m delighted that my friend Melissa is sharing her story about life with fibromyalgia.

Also, check out Melissa’s blog When I Obey

Here’s her story:

The anniversary of when everything changed (life with fibromyalgia)

by Melissa Shannon

August 3, 2016, for most people, was just another day. For me, it was the one-year anniversary of the day everything changed for me.


You see, I have had the diagnosis of fibromyalgia for about 8 years now. We won’t get into the discussion as to whether or not it’s a real diagnosis. The symptoms I deal with on a daily basis are real enough that none of that matters. It’s a problem, anyway you look at it. This is how it’s affected my life.


The first few years with fibro

For the first few years, I was able to push through and still maintain a normal life. I worked a full-time job, volunteered at church and other places throughout the week, had an active social life and a busy family life. The pain and issues I faced then were problematic, but not exactly debilitating to my daily life. I sought medical treatment the first couple of years, but once we realized the treatments caused more problems than they helped, I stopped taking any kind of prescription. I just “suffered” through.

Melissa and her husband Ben a few years ago.

Melissa and her husband Ben a few years ago.

Oh, how I laugh at that! “Suffered” through. I had no idea what I was about to experience. Over the last three years, my health has slowly declined. I didn’t realize what was happening at the time, but looking back now, I see it. I began to have more and more bad days. Good days, where I was able to function and be active became fewer and farther between. This all came to a crash, as they call it, on August 3, 2015. Continue Reading →

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Let’s listen to each other



A friend of mine recently started a discussion on her Facebook page that asked what the solutions are to what feels like a growing number of unarmed black men being killed in interactions with law enforcement. She asked if hiring more black police officers would help. The discussion was interesting and for the most part, civil. She’s great at fostering those types of discussions!

It is a question that I’ve pondered for more than a year. What will solve the problem? The thing is, I don’t think a problem this multi-faceted can be solved with a simple answer. I tried to write a few paragraphs in response but it turned into well, what you are reading now. I decided something this long was too much to load on someone’s Facebook page so I’m taking my thoughts to Jamie’s Thots.

The first several versions of this blog were more than 1,000 words. I ranted and raged about preconceived notions clouding our judgement of each other. I lamented how wrong and sad all this is. But you know what? I scrapped most of it.

The thing is, I think many people logically know that not all cops are prejudiced and not all black people are somehow dangerous. We know that in our heads, but fear and preconceived notions are rarely, if ever, logical. We react based on our perceptions and personal realities. It’s easy to say that we just have to remember all this in the heat of the moment. I think the work needs to happen well before then.

I’d be interested to learn from communities that, overall, are doing things right. What actions have the black community and the police community done to better understand each other? And, let me be blunt, what has the white community in those cities done to help foster this discussion and understanding?

White friends and family members, it’s people from our part of society and who look like us who started the prejudice and who created systems that would benefit white people. I agree that not all things labeled as racist actually deserve that label. But to deny that our systems were not originally set up to benefit white people is simply foolish and contradicts all that we know about history.  It’s up to us to figure out what those issues are and change them.

I’m also going to be equally blunt about known issues in some segments of the black community, which are the statistics so many white people like to bring up that show the high level of black-on-black crime. We must all believe and act on the belief that black lives matter. That means valuing yourselves within your own community. I know that as a white person, I can’t really do a whole lot about that. It’s not my place to tell you what to do. My responsibility is to focus on what I can do, which is to speak for justice, equality and change. I’m not going to wait to love people until the circumstances are perfect.

Back to the idea of how we can do actual work to make things better. We need to talk to each other. Forget the hashtags. Forget the narratives we’re told to believe by various sources. Let’s listen to individuals. We each have a voice in this. We can each make a difference. We won’t solve anything soon, but it’s a start.

That means we have to seek out people who are different from ourselves. We need to hear their truth, their perceptions, and their realities. Without trying to find ways to discredit what we hear with statistics and pseudo-empathy. We’re going to make each other mad. We’re going to push buttons. We’re going to feel negative things.

Let’s listen anyways.


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Celebrating National Women’s Friendship Day with #NWARKCares

Two lonely-eyed boys in a pick-up truck
And they’re drivin’ through the rain and the heat
And their skin’s so sweaty they both get stuck
To the old black vinyl seats
And it’s Abbott and Costello meet Paul and Silas
It’s the two of us together and we’re puttin’ on the mileage

And we both feel lost
But I remember what Susan said
How love is found in the things we’ve given up
More than in the things that we have kept
And ain’t it funny what people say
And ain’t it funny what people write
And ain’t it funny how it hits you so hard
In the middle of the night
And if your home is just another place where you’re a stranger
And far away is just somewhere you’ve never been
I hope that you’ll remember, I was your friend.

Those lyrics may seem like a strange way to start out a blog celebrating National Women’s Friendship Day but to me, they’re appropriate. These lyrics are from the song What Susan Said by Rich Mullins. I don’t talk about this much, but Rich was a family friend when I was growing up. While the lyrics are talking about Rich and his closest friend, it’s something I always think of when I think of true friendship.
It represents being loyal through the best and worst parts of life. It represents being that safe place even when the rest of the world around you (or in you) is in turmoil.

So, what is friendship? I know some people who won’t use the word friend unless it’s a close relationship. I know others who will call anyone friend just because they’ve met them. I choose to be in the middle of those two positions. I call many people friends, and even some I call close friend. But there are a select few who earn the title “true friend.” A true friend is someone who celebrates who you are, shares your values, and is someone who lovingly kicks your butt when it needs kicking. A true friend is someone you can tell pretty much anything to and know it will never leave that conversation.

I have many friends. I have a good number of close friends but can only think of only a few true friends throughout my life. At times, I’ve found this truth painfully lonely. Deeply lonely. But I choose now to call it a blessing because I cherish those few true friends so much more.

In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate the meaning of the word “tribe” and its modern usage. Finding one’s tribe means finding people who “get” you. People from whom you draw strength. People to whom you provide strength. I have what I call my tribes and my inner tribes. Kind of like close friend and true friend. This isn’t cliquish, this is called boundaries.

It’s partially through these tribes that I’ve found my life calling, which is to help people, especially women, discover who they truly are and what that can mean for their life. Continue Reading →

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A night of relaxation and fun with Birra Vino’s and Something From Nothing Paint Parties

FTC Disclosure: I was provided a free meal from Birra Vino’s Pizzeria and a free paint station from Something from Nothing Paint Parties in exchange for social media amplification and a blog post. All opinions are my own.


Considering I’m in this picture, it seems obvious that I didn’t take it but felt like I should clariy that it’s courtesy of Something From Nothing Paint Parties.


Do you ever just need an evening away with friends for a creative activity and great food? Of course you do. I recently had that opportunity and am so grateful for the experience.

You may remember that my friend Sarah started a new company more than a year ago called Something From Nothing Paint Parties. It’s one of those group paint party companies but instead of everyone going to a big studio, Sarah brings the party to you. These parties are a great thing for team building, girls’ night out, couples, and whomever! This is my second one, actually. Last year, I participated in a paint party at Sarah’s house and had such a great time I knew I wanted to do it again!


This time, it was a lot different! See, she recently teamed up with a relatively new restaurant there in Siloam Springs called Birra Vino’s Pizzeria to offer monthly open paint parties for anyone who wants to sign up (usually you are invited by a hostess and the hostess chooses the painting). The paint parties are the fourth Saturday every month until the holidays. The cost for the party is $30 in advance. Guests are encouraged to come about an hour or so before the paint party starts to enjoy a delicious handmade meal in a really friendly atmosphere.

This guy greats you as you come in.

This guy greets you as you come in.

Continue Reading →

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Ozark Pudding recipe (bread pudding-inspired apple and pecan cake)


I don’t remember exactly how I came to discover Ozark Pudding, but our lives are forever changed because of it! It’s interesting to me how there are so many different ways to make this delectable southern dish and truth be told, they are all good.

The recipe we settled on for our first time was from Deep South Dish and it was fantastic! The crust rose perfectly to the top with the soft portion underneath being like an apple pecan pie consistency. We also tried the same ingredients in a bread pan and it was a little bit thicker.

Then, we decided to start experimenting. We tried different pans, different sweeteners, different methods of slicing the apples, more flour, less flour, you name it. We even talked about trying pear instead of apple but never got around to it.

What we came up with is more like a custardy bread pudding and it’s delicious! Continue Reading →

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Reunions, kiddos, and fun in Wichita

A while back, we made it to Wichita for a short but great trip. The timing was designed around my high school reunion, but my sister-in-law also came with the nieces and nephew! I loved my reunion, but time with the littles and the rest of the family was the highlight of our trip.  Continue Reading →

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Realizing a niche and finding independence at WordCamp Kansas City



It’s interesting when we go into a situation expecting one thing and coming out of it with something completely different, isn’t it?

Nearly a month ago, I attended WordCamp Kansas City where I also served as a speaker and volunteered in the community support lounge. WordCamps are weekend events held all over the world that bring together people who use WordPress, which is a content management system that drives websites and blogs. I’m also on the WordCamp Fayetteville planning committee.

I expected to attend WordCamp and see lots of friends and learn more about WordPress. Both happened, but it’s not what I remember most about the trip. It turns out, this trip was more of an emotional experience and confidence builder for me, which is something I sorely needed whether I realized it or not.  Continue Reading →

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Slow Cooker Korean Tri-Tip BBQ with Simply Lemonade® and KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #BestSummerBBQ #CollectiveBias


We are big fans of many kinds of barbecue, and our favorite brand continues to be KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce. We also enjoy dry rubs, so you can’t even imagine how excited I was to learn that there is now a KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub. We decided to try the Original flavor rub (it also comes in Honey BBQ and Habanero BBQ) to make our own version of a Korean BBQ in the slow cooker using our favorite cut of beef, tri-tip. The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut. It is a small triangular muscle.

By the way, you can find the produce, meat, most of the spices, KC Masterpiece dry rub and Simply Lemonade® at Sam’s Club. Such a great place to get larger quantities of stuff for entertaining or simply making lots of great food for two! Continue Reading →

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Finding your calling in a time of darkness

Finding your calling


In many ways, the past 6-7 years have been the best of my life and I have my husband and God to thank for that. It’s also been a time where I’ve faced my most difficult challenges. From a public layoff and an ensuing identity crisis, followed by years of growing health problems, life has certainly had some dark moments.

Through it all, God has taught me a lot. A lot about myself, about others, and most of all about Himself. Continue Reading →

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Feeling included (not just accommodated) and new mini-series everyone should watch Memorial Day weekend (my follow up to BFF)



Do you know what it feels like to feel included and not just accommodated or tolerated? I do. But I also know what the opposite feels like. Usually, it’s the latter.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a sponsored post about the Bentonville Film Festival and one of its sponsors. A few days later, I had the opportunity to “cover” the BFF for the organization’s social media team and was able to attend even more sessions. I’ve been meaning to come back and write my thoughts and this weekend seemed perfect because what I want to highlight is a four-night series that starts Memorial Day (May 30) on the History Channel.



Cast member Erica Tazel (center…places Matilda) and the executive producer Mark Wolper join moderator Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association after a screening of the mini-series Roots.


The original movie Roots came out in the 70s and new adaptation is coming to the History Channel in a four-night mini-series starting 8 p.m. central time on May 30. This is from the same book by Alex Haley, but is actually four independent segments that piece together the same family’s story. Each episode focuses on a specific character over the family’s history and what’s even more cool is, each episode has a different director. We saw the third episode at a screening during the film festival and I was enthralled.  Continue Reading →

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