Life with Ladybug: Not digging Graves’ Disease

By Shannon Magsam

I have a friend who may have thyroid cancer and I’m more than freaked out about it, but praying that she gets the help she needs, has surgery and gets the all-clear SOON.

Lots of women wonder if they have thyroid issues (and many of them actually do) because they think it might explain their weight gain or inability to lose weight. When I developed thyroid disease, it never entered my mind.

Of course, I was a 20-something, working 60-hour weeks at my first newspaper job.

And I was losing weight.

tiggerI resembled Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, bouncing around the Thousand Acre Wood in a state of never rest. Except I was bouncing off the four walls of a tiny newspaper office.

I didn’t realize it, but my body was burning up from the inside. My organs were working overtime and when I drank more caffeine to stay awake and make newspaper deadlines (or put the paper to bed every week) I was adding fuel to an already crackling fire.

I had the opposite of the thyroid condition can make people gain weight.

I was the proud owner of a HYPER-thyroid. My thyroid (a gland which is described as butterfly-shaped, how pretty) became so large I could finally see it in the mirror. It looked like I had swallowed a small egg and it was sitting right below my Adam’s apple. (I’m so glad I dodged one of the other common symptoms: bulging eyes.)

I found out the big knot had an ugly name: goiter. And the name of my disease was also ugly: Graves’ Disease.

Grave, dead, coffin, buried. I immediately thought of those words. My specialty doctor laughed at my concerns. He had seen this many times and wasn’t impressed.

He recommended that I take radioactive iodine to obliterate my overactive thyroid, so overnight I became someone who was HYPO-thyroid.

And I started taking little pills to compensate for my lack of a thyroid. (The Good Doctor really laughed when I said, in all seriousness: “What would happen to me if there was an apocalyptic event and I ran out of Synthroid?” I have since learned that my body starts to slowwww down if I miss a few pills. I don’t want to think about dying a slow, organs-shutting-down-slowly death. I try hard to keep a 90-day supply of Synthroid on hand.)

Many years after my thyroid was done in, I read a book by Christiane Northrup called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. I was in bed with my husband, propped up on two fluffy pillows, happily reading this book, when I got to The Part. The Part where she specifically mentioned Graves disease, which I somehow hadn’t realized was an autoimmune disease.

Don’t quote me (it was years ago) but Dr. Northrup wrote that sometimes our bodies manifest physical symptoms that correspond with problems we might be having in our lives. For example, if you don’t SAY what you need to say to the people around you, if you keep quiet when you should speak up, maybe you’ll get a cough. Or maybe you’ll get a big knot on your throat.

I thought back to that time of my Graves’ affliction: I was young, trying to prove myself as a new reporter, my personal life was a shambles and I shut up and put up. A people pleaser since birth (one can only assume), I avoided conflict and often failed to say what I really needed to say.

When I recalled that time in my life, I started to boohoo in bed, startling my husband. It made me emotional, I suppose, to remember the stress and the shambles. But I also felt empowered.

maxed out bookI realized I had changed for the better. I was better at speaking up and not taking on so much that my body might literally start to raise a ruckus by becoming sick. You know, just to get my attention.

I was reminded of that night in bed this week while reading a book by Katrina Alcorn called Maxed Out.

It struck me that I still haven’t completely given up the habit of not taking care of myself as much as I should (by exercising, sleeping and saying no enough). It reminded me that I vowed not to shut up and put up. I can still be kind, but I’m nobody’s doormat.

I’m sure I still keep too much bottled up, but I don’t feel like I might blow anymore. I pray, talk to friends and take care that I’m not holding onto resentments.

Please know that I’m not saying if you have cancer or some other illness, it’s your fault. But I do know there can be a correlation between physical ailments and inner turmoil.

And as GI Joe says: Knowing is half the battle.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of,, and the proud mama of a 13-year-old lady(bug). She’s married to John, a fellow writer and entrepreneur.

Life with Ladybug: Show me your scars and I’ll show you mine


By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

One night when we were visiting my husband’s family in Philadelphia, his brother-in-law and I started comparing scars. My husband joked that we reminded him of that scene in Jaws when the characters were showing each other all their old war wounds.

Ours certainly weren’t that bad.

My husband’s brother-in-law, a rough and tumble guy who played and coached all kinds of sports, had lots more scars to share. But I had quite a few and gleefully displayed the visual evidence, making the how-I-got-my-scars stories as dramatic and gory as possible.

Well, I didn’t show him ONE of my scars: the jagged C-section that runs low across my abdomen.

At the time, it didn’t exist. (If it had, I totally could have trumped his old football scars. “And then they took my internal organs out, and had them lying on the table next to me!”)

But I had other old scars. From my bottom lip down to my big toe, I told my brother-in-law about these:

♦ The vertical line on my bottom lip from getting socked in the mouth with a baseball bat from that time in fifth grade when I was standing too close behind home plate.

♦ A mostly-faded gash on my neck from when I fell out of bed as a kid and came in contact with the edge of a trash can that was sitting right next to my sick bed.

♦ A puffy lighter-than-flesh-colored scar on my left palm left by the nasty bite of a fuzzy red ant that I tried to pick up when I was 6.

♦ Both my knees, from the time I careened through a barbed-wire fence on a go-kart with no brakes that was driven by a friend.

♦ On my right foot, an angry white line bisecting the bottom of my big toe from the cut I received after falling off a small bridge across a creek and landing on a broken glass bottle.

♦ Oh, and in the middle, there’s the one that’s more recent: the C-section scar. My OB told me I’d still be able to wear a bikini and I did, once, when I was at a tropical location to attend a wedding. But never here in NWA where I live and play, thankyouverymuch.

Our scars are evidence of a story. Often, lots of stories. The stories of our particular, unique, sometimes difficult, sometimes brave, sometimes daring lives.

We all have them, right? Where are your scars and how did you get them?

Let’s compare!

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: Embrace the MOMent

Life with Ladybug logo

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

“Mom, you have GOT to watch this TED talk! It’s called Embrace the Shake! It’s amazing.”

I immediately starting singing Shake it Off! Shake it off! and doing a little car dance.

youtube artFor that, I got the look. The kind of look that only a newly minted 13-year-old can give you. I’d just picked her up after school and she couldn’t wait for me to see this TED talk. She’d seen it in language arts class that day and it was apparently ah-mazing.

After swinging by Sonic for a snack, we settled in at home to watch Embrace the Shake. The talk grabbed my attention from the very beginning.

Even so, when Ladybug clicked the button to make the video show in “full screen” I balked. I had planned on checking my email over in the corner as we watched it on my work computer.

But with the video full screen, that’s all I could see.


I was immediately reminded that I’m awful at living in the moment. I constantly frustrate myself by thinking about work when I’m trying to play or enjoy family time. The curse of the work-at-home mom?

After Ladybug clicked on full screen, I made myself stop worrying about my email and I stopped trying to multi-task (I KNOW multi-tasking’s bad and researchers say you might as well be smoking pot when you try to do more than one thing at a time. DUDE). I actually sat back and just watched.

I’m glad I did. Embrace the Shake was inspirational and my girl and I were having a MOMENT. I let those moments pass by way too often. I’m always on the run, always thinking ahead to what’s next, not what’s now.

It’s like my mind is one of those TVs where you can watch multiple shows at once in little squares on the edges of the main event.

I want to turn those little side shows off more often. I want to go full screen and live in the moment more. Those little Mom Moments I can never get back.

I wrote a note and put it on my desk as a reminder. It says: “FULL SCREEN. Embrace the MOMent!”

Now I’d love for you to watch Embrace the Shake because it really is amazing. Be sure to enjoy it full screen for the full effect. As with everything in life :)

Click here to watch Embrace the Shake on the TED website.

Shannon headshot, peach USE THISShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: Horses, cabins, friends, no leashes

candle polaroid

By Shannon Magsam

When we talked about what Ladybug wanted to do for her 13th birthday, she expressed a sentiment that I could relate to: “Mom, I just want to be off the leash for a little while.”

Baby, I understand.

Sometimes I feel tethered to my computer, my iPhone, the dirty dishes in the sink. Since I work from home, paid work is always staring me in the face and so is the unpaid housework.

So we made our escape over the weekend. We traveled to a little ranch just outside Alpena (Arkansas) to hang out in a cozy cabin and ride horses. We took a few of Ladybug’s closest friends to help celebrate the transition from 12-year-old to teen.

On Saturday, the birthday girl, her dad, her friends, and her mama saddled up for a trail ride.

As I breathed in the smell of my dusty horse, I remembered that it’s one of my most favorite scents ever. Yes, I love the smell of Bath & Body Works blue spa lotion and chocolate chip cookies as they’re being lifted out of the oven, but to smell a horse grounds me and pulls me up to my happy place by the roots.

I was always a horse girl. My grandmother used to tell me about the day she looked out the kitchen window and saw me sitting atop a large stallion. I had lured him over to the septic tank and jumped on. I had no fear. The beast didn’t mind the light weight of my 4-year-old self, but my Nannie still felt panicked. I can almost hear her praying as she walked up, very slowly, and pulled me down from the horse.

Ladybug also has a way with horses. When we were at the Rockin’ Z Ranch she rode a dark horse named Pistol. She was a natural. She really wanted to gallop, but knew it would make her friends’ horses gallop, too. So she just trotted occasionally on our hour-long trail ride.

Ladybug on pistol

When we made it back to the ranch, she and Pistol kept going while everyone else’s steeds were being unsaddled and unbridled. She urged her horse to go, go, go and she rode him with such ease a passerby wouldn’t have known it had probably been about two years since she’d been on a horse.

It took a while, but we eventually pried the birthday girl and her friends away from the main house – which was difficult since it’s populated with a herd of goats, some sweet dogs, lots and lots of horses and a few cantankerous miniature ponies. It was getting dark, so the friendly ranch owner, Steve, set us up with an outdoor campfire. We roasted hot dogs and toasted marshmallows for s’mores.

We pretended we were roughing it, even though we’d stocked up with snack food of every sort, had the warmth of a gas heater, and slept with blankets and pillows on soft beds.

After the girls had gone up to their loft bedroom to listen to music (too loudly, but we were out in the middle of the woods and weren’t bothering any neighbors), my husband and I chatted and got some reading in. How often have we had time to really talk lately? Or read more than a chapter in one sitting?

rockin zOn Sunday morning, I cooked a pound of bacon and other breakfast food. The girls played a few more hands of Uno at the kitchen table before heading out to take a walk. They headed down to visit the animals at the main house and we drove down to meet them shortly.

We said goodbye to Steve, his super-kind wife, Karen, and two of their six children (the others are in college or otherwise living on their own). We said goodbye to all the livestock (including lots of cows and several adorable calves) and piled into the getaway car.

On the drive home, the girls reminisced about their weekend.

One summed it up: “Horses. Cabin. Ranch. Dance party.”

I added: “Billy goat (he thought hard about ramming our vehicle the first time we drove down to the ranch and he chased the girls into the vehicle on the way out on Sunday. They might have provoked him. Probably.). Uno (who knew how fiercely competitive 13-year-old girls could be while playing Uno at 1 a.m.?).

I looked back at my daughter and also added (silently): “Unleashed.”

Shannon close up, peachShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaperman and they have a fun-loving, artsy teen (officially!) who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.

Life with Ladybug: 7 strategies to keep you from twisting your t(w)eenager’s head off

By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama

That headline is a joke, of course. I’d never hurt my kid – and neither would you — but sometimes my preshus snowflake can give me a certain look or say just the most crazy (ungrateful) things …

If you’re like me, you might find yourself in need of some, shall we say, strategies to help make it through those moments.

Here are some strategies I’ve used (sometimes daily, let’s be honest) to remain sane in the midst of a teen/mom confrontation:

ladybug in frameLook at old baby pictures. Stare about those round rosy cheeks, those sweet rosebud lips. Place a few of your favorites around the house strategically so you can gaze intently at them while channeling Mother Theresa. The nostalgia should be enough to pull you through those few seconds/minutes/hours of outrage.

I hung some of my daughter’s baby pictures in the hallway right outside her bedroom. There’s also one in the living room from when she was about four years old. Wasn’t that baby girl so sweet back then? She’s still in there. The contents may have shifted, but she’s still in there.

Breathe in and out while thinking: hormones. As the Jewish Proverb reminds us: “A mother understands what a child does not say.”

Sometimes the hormones and the stress of life can make them a little crazy. Be assured that your kids are kind and considerate to others, while saving the crazy for you. Because you’re a soft place to land. (Think: Mommy Mattress.)

Think back to how you acted when you were his/her age and ponder this word: payback. Your own mother will likely not gloat openly, but you can bet there’s a small part of her (inside) that’s snickering.

But seriously, this is a phase.

You did/said/acted some of these same way. And admit it: you were worse.

Find something to laugh about. For me, it’s usually the pets who throw me a bone when I need to focus on something funny. Our big poodle, two cats and two chickens are typically acting ridiculous, so they serve as a helpful distraction. Laughing can bring a hostility down a few notches.

IGNORE. Seriously, I sometimes pretend not to see an eye roll, hear a growl or feel the woosh of a door as it closes very, very fast. We can’t react to every single thing.

It’s ok to let them blow off steam a little. Moms do it, too. Where do you think they learned it?

Don’t worst-case-scenario things. Just because you have a little parent/kid dust-up doesn’t mean your relationship is crap and things will never be the same. Repeat after me: She will soon come out of her room, act as if nothing happened, and will ask what’s for dinner. This is normal.

Teens sometimes have a force field around themselves (when it comes to their parents) because they’re trying to separate from us. We eventually want them to leave the nest and be productive citizens, so this is a good thing. Even if it really, really feels awful sometimes.

Listen. With a closed mouth. This one may be the hardest one to do, but it will help you stay sane because it might actually lead to your kid talking it out (instead of reacting negatively to your reaction). If your kid talks it out, you might actually have a good conversation and you’ll get a peek inside your kid’s brain.

You might even be able to help them with a problem. Which will make both of you feel better.

None of these will work every time (don’t I know it), but maybe one of the seven strategies will cross your mind the next time your t(w)eenager really pushes your buttons.

Peace out, mamas.

Shannon close up, peachShannon Magsam is co-founder of and She’s married to an awesome newspaper guy and they have a fun-loving, artsy tween who loves watching tv with them and drawing cats. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to or leave a comment here.