Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009!

I have been searching all day for a positive to my husband breaking his hand yesterday.  If you are not on facebook- he broke it in two places and Saturday morning he has to have surgery to have pins put into the hand so that it will heal properly.  I guess the positive is that since it is his right hand he won't be bowling for at least a month (the pins are in for 4 weeks) so that will help dent the medical bills. 

I really have been very blessed this year.  For every "bad" thing that happened- two or three good ones came on its heels.  I have spent a lot of time with my parents, I got to see Joshua and Jim's family.  I got to see many of my friends when I went back to Massachusetts.  My RA is very much under control (knock wood)and my fibro is not in too bad a place either.    I have met a group of very smart, very funny and very positive folks who live with chronic illnesses on both the blog world and Twitter- I am proud to call them my friends. 

As I look forward to 2010 and the bringing of both a new year and a new decade- I would be remiss if I didn't make some resolutions.  The best resolution I have heard thus far came from @LupusChick on Twitter and that was simply to Laugh More.  So I am definitely using that.  So- here goes my list:

1- To Laugh More
2- To continue on the positivity path.
3- To read from my "Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy" each day.
4- To continue to practice Gratitude within my life.
5- To take better care of myself.
6- To make the hard choices to improve my life.
7- To take a hard look at who and what I invest myself in. 
8- To find a way to share my gratitude with others. 

That is it for me.  Oh- last but not least- to look forward and not backward.

 There is so much to look forward to in the next few years. * In 2011 I will celebrate my 25th anniversary with my darling husband and four days later- my parents (and role models) will celebrate their 45th.  For our 25th we are hoping to go to Disney since my honey has never been there.  So this coming year we are filling a five gallon water jug with our change to get us on the way to that trip.   It will be fun to see how much we can put in there and put away.  *I am looking forward this weekend to emptying my vision board and resetting it for the coming year.  *I am looking forward to re-reading two of my favorite books- The Secret and Eat, Pray, Love.  I think I will take The Secret with me when I sit in the hospital on Saturday along with my journal.  *I am also looking forward to going through all of my Real Simple Magazines and heading down the road to a simpler life. * I look forward to cultivating friendships with others in the same school of thought that I am in and being a friend they can count on. 

2010 looks brighter and brighter!  I hope you all have a safe and happy end to 2009 and a very blessed 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Does No News Equal Good News?

I mentioned before Christmas that we were watching my liver levels.  Well, the test was 11 days ago and I still haven't heard anything.  On one hand- each time the levels have come back high I have gotten a phone call within a week to tell me we had to re-test.  On the other hand- it is the holidays so the lab could be running with lower staff.  I don't know what to think.  I would like to speculate (thinking positively) that when I called to move my appointment from January to February yesterday that they would have mentioned it if there was a reason for me to come sooner but they didn't.  So I am holding on to hope.

The pups are doing very well in my estimation.  Miss Harley put Auggie in his place yesterday when he tried to take her rawhide which for my super mellow pup is amazing.  Yesterday when I crated him before work he started to wimper and she went and sat by the crate with him.  I am sure that she didn't spend the whole day there, but when Jim came home- she was there again.  Last night they both spent the night in our bed and right now they are curled up on the couch about a foot apart.  I am really looking forward to this weekend when we have four full days at home with them.  We did have an "accident" from him last night before our walk, but I am hoping that it was because he is not used to our routine yet and not because he is not fully house trained.  Either way- we will work through it.  My parents invited us to bring both babies down this weekend but I think it is best that we keep them here and let them bond and let him get used to our routine before we take him someplace new (and potentially soil their beautiful carpet) and to meet new people.  I also need to get used to controlling the two of them on leash as they are very different in how they walk and I pulled a muscle in my back this morning trying to keep them both going.  Even so- I am feeling blessed that we got him.

I asked on Twitter about Resolutions yesterday and I got the best answer from @LupusChick.  She said her resolution was to laugh more.  I love that.  I am definitely adding that to my list!  I hope you all have a wonderful day. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to work today and a way to say thanks!

It's a short week though though we messed up and because of a lack of communication- we are in for some long days.  We didn't realize that most of the school is only open from 10-2 this week- so we didn't change our hours and I think it will be too late now.  Oh well- I guess we will see how it goes and hopefully get a lot of work done.  I may be able to change the hours for Wednesday- which would be helpful since I have to run the end of month anyway.  If not- that's fine because I had planned on being there anyway. 

Xerox is doing something pretty neat to say THANK YOU to our troops.  If you go to this site, choose one of 80 cards drawn by children around the country, enter your name and home city/state and choose one of 10 messages and submit.  Your card will be printed and sent to a soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and other hot spots around the globe.  It literally takes as long as it takes you to choose your picture and your message.  Good Job Xerox!  I have tried to send a card each day since I have found this site.  If you are on facebook and would like a little reminder (in the form of an "event" above your birthday reminders) message me on facebook and I will "invite" you!  It's a great way to have that reminder every day. 

I have been thinking about New Year's resolutions a lot.  I always make the standard ones (quit smoking, lose weight, blah, blah, blah) and fail them in short order.  Last year was my "best" year because I resolved to give thanks for the blessings in my life- and we have over 140 examples of that here so I did well enough that I can check that off as a win.  I have been thinking and thinking about what I want to work on in 2010 and hope that by Thursday's blog I will have a solid list.  In the mean time- I will be thankful that I was able to spend this year realizing how truely blessed I am. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's a BOY!

Boy puppy that is.  If you are on my facebook- then a photo of him is already posted.  It is amusing.  My darling husband and I have been thinking about adding another pup to our family for a while now.  Before Thanksgiving we went to the Animal Care Society in Louisville where we had gotten our little love Harley 20 months prior and we met "Augie" a little Pekenese mix.  He was a little sweetie, had been brought in with his "wife" (a rat terrier) and 5 puppies.  Jim fell in love instantly and would have brought him home immediately but cooler heads (mine) prevailed when I reminded him that we were traveling to NC in just a few days and that there wouldn't be any time for him and Harley to bond prior to that- and that we were going to my sister's home where there was a sweet dog and two somewhat anti-social cats.  Needless to say- we did not bring him home. 

During my recent vacation, I had a very vivid MTX induced dream and the little guy was in it.  When I woke up I looked at the website and lo and behold- he was still there.  We went back to see him yesterday and today took Harley to meet him and that was it.  At the moment, he is sitting on the couch, she is on my hassock and they are both just as cute as can be.  They have passed two "tests" so far- they have shared and tugged over toys (each has their own and they have three new toys to share) and they just ate dinner side by side.  So far so good and the big test comes tomorrow when he is crated tomorrow while we go to work.  We know he is crate trained- we just don't know how she will react to him being crated while she gets to run free. 

It's funny how things work out.  I guess it was just meant to be.  So now I have another new four-legged love to be thankful for every day of my life. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blood Tests and Vacations

Well- it's "D-day" for my blood tests.  In the last four months, I have had to have blood tests every month and my liver enzymes have been up-down-up-up.  If they are up again today, I will be referred to a heptologist.  The most likely scenario is that they will take me off of all of my meds for a few months to see if my liver rebounds and possibly perform a liver biopsy to see if there is any permanent damage.

I am not showing any of the typical signs of liver damage.  No pain (there) and no jaundice.  Because of this I am not afraid of permanent damage.  What I am afraid of is both giving up my methotrexate and the timing of this.  MTX has been my minor miracle in terms of my treatment.  And really, who wants to invite more pain and stiffness- especially in the winter when "normal" people feel it too.  For "us"- the bitter cold can be just plain horrible. 

On the bright side I start my final vacation of the year today.  I am going in to work until about 10, off to my lab appointment and then home to pack and nap.  I have a Christmas party at 6.  I am going for an hour or two then home to grab my bags and my puppy and head to my folks.  My honey has to work tomorrow, and most of next week so he will be joining us at some point on Christmas eve.  I am very much looking forward to spending the next week with my parents. 

In case I don't get the chance to blog while I am away- I hope that you all have a wonderful, safe, pain free holiday with your loved ones! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

From the bottom of my heart

I am so very greatful to not suffer from depression.  At the beginning of this week, a man that I knew committed suicide.  He was charming, witty, handsome, athletic, well liked- your typical "All-American boy".  He was not perfect, he made mistakes, but never, ever would I (or anyone else I have spoken to) have guessed that his demons ran so deep that he would do something like this.  I have been told how, and the probable why (who can ever know for sure?) but it still does not compute.  I just don't understand- and I am very thankful that I don't. 

I have been thinking about this since I heard the news.  I cannot imagine no matter how far I stretch my mind, being in such a depth of despair that I would take my own life.  I have been incredibly sad many times in my life.  I have grieved until I felt completely wrung out, I have been hurt to what felt like the bottom of my soul- but never once have I been so far down that I felt that was an option.  I cannot fathom how that would feel.  Call me selfish but I don't want to find out either.  I just don't understand it.  I don't understand how anyone could be so far "down" that they would not, could not, see even the smallest blessing and grab hold of it.  We all have them- even in our worst hour.  We just have to look.  That blessing may be the one person who will help you find the help that you need.  It may just be something tiny but the very thing you need to stop the spiral and begin to climb out.

Tonight I am praying that my friend found the peace he was looking for.  I pray that his family and friends will cherish their good memories and heal from the tremendous pain of this tragedy.  I am choosing to remember the man that I knew who made me laugh, who always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.  I also pray that if any of you reading this are struggling with depression; that you will find your blessing, focus on it, give thanks for it, and that out of that gratitude- your blessings multiply until the emotional and mental pain has lessened.  I also pray that anyone in this world who is contemplating suicide at this moment will find the strength ask for the help that they need to get through this. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's a big day- a big week.

So very much of my work for the last few weeks has led up to today.  I am hosting our first ever open house for our faculty.  We have invited them all in to check their orders, see if their books are on the shelves and to have a few nibbles while we talk to them about their particular courses and any issues they may have with their books.  We have worked tirelessly to get as many books on the shelves as possible, to process any orders that have come in, to change out shelf tags so prices are correct, to buy back as many books as possible from the students and to be just ready by today.  I am doing this because many times, students will go to class unprepared and when the professor calls on them they say "Oh- the bookstore didn't have my books."- which leads to an irate call to us- only for the faculty to find out that we do in fact have books on the shelf.  Or- we will order books based on a sales history only to find out a week into classes that the class enrollment has exploded and there are double the usual number of students so we have run out.  We also make mistakes and this way we will have two weeks to correct those problems.  I thought that if we could head some of these problems off at the pass- it would make for a smoother semester for all of us, especially since we are shorter on staff this year.  We were not able to meet my goal of getting every book in our back room out on the shelf for today- but we know what is back there and can intellegently answer questions about titles that have not hit the shelf as of yet.

After today- I have two days to  "clean up" any problems, place new orders and then one to get everything in place to begin processing our online book reservations and make my lists for what needs to be done during my vacation and generally making sure everything is prepared for me to be able to spend the week of Christmas with my parents.  When I get back- we open the textbook section for the Spring semester and really gear up for the kick off to the year.  At the beginning of the year we start two to three weeks of twelve hour days again before things really calm down on February first.  We are very fortunate that for the next month we have extra help in the students who work for us and we can really dig in and get everything done without having to do everything ourselves.   There will be a lot of overseeing- because I am pretty neurotic that way- but I am finally feeling confident that we will be able to complete everything we need to do.  

I am feeling much calmer and more at peace with where we are today and that will mean that I can sleep better at night at least for a little while.  My hands have been protesting so I did a nice paraffin dip last night and today I am wearing braces where needed but so far (knock on wood) I have avoided a flare- which is amazing, so there is that to be grateful for as well.  Plus there is the fact that starting Friday at 10- I am on vacation- which is much, much needed.  All in all, I am feeling very grateful for all that we have gotten done in the last few weeks and for the "calm before the storm" of the next few weeks. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I can never say Thank You enough

Our men and women of the armed services do so much for so little. As the daughter/wife/daughter-in-law/sister/granddaughter of US Vets- I will be going here often and encourage you to join me in thanking our troops.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Well- here we are at 6:30 on Saturday morning.  I am up, in the middle of my first (of many-lol) cups of coffee for the day, dressed comfortably for the day and getting mentally ready for work.  Though I am still writing down my hours (I am salary- there is no OT) I have given up keeping a mental tally because it is just depressing.  I would estimate that my colleague and I, if we were to take all our comp time at once would have two weeks off in a row- and it isn't even our "rush" time yet.  That begins on the 28th and goes until February 1st.  Rush will easily be 12 hour days.

My husband has been wonderful about this.  He knows that we are working our butts off and that it won't be forever so he has been great about cooking for himself and taking care of the dog.  I refuse to give up her walks because I need that time to start and end my day on a normal, calming note.  Just taking her out for her walk can change my mood and my stress level from cranky and high stress to calm and ready for bed.  I am so thankful that we have that time together, morning and night, to walk and have some quiet time to get my head to a good place. 

I had a bit of a snit this week.  I am not proud of it but it rather enabled me to get through the rest of the week.  At one point we were on a conference call and it was very busy so we were feeling the pressure in a big way.  Our boss was talking about deadlines and non-compliance.  *Now* we used to pride ourselves on hitting our deadlines each and every time and most often being early- but we know- darned good and well- that  we are missing some because we are scrambling to do everything that our recently departed colleagues did, the work of the folks that are out on medical leave do, and our own jobs.  We were both feeling a little overwhelmed already and this conversation just hit a raw nerve.  I was starting to get angry and my colleague was in tears and that just sent me over the top.  Rather than storm around and let it stew- I fired off an email to our boss.  You could tell that we were both upset but once I sent it, I was able to go back to work, get back in front of customers and not let it affect my service.  Thankfully I have a wonderful boss who is very aware and called in the morning to talk through the situation.  She assured us she knows we are working very hard and she is really proud of us for holding things together and we discussed who the message was meant for in the big picture.  I am fortunate that she is who she is and that is someone I can admire.  I have said a million times to different people that she will do anything she can to make you successful because if we are successful- she is successful.  I am just grateful that she took the meltdown in the spirit in which it was intended and won't hold it against us. 

So the light at the end of the tunnel- I am going in to work today.  I am giving myself ten hours to get done whatever I can and that will be it.  I am going in with a specific task in mind (that usually takes two days when the store is open) and I am going to not let myself get derailed.  I will NOT go in tomorrow no matter what.  Next week is going to be a bit hectic as well-but I am not spending as many hours as I have been there and on Friday morning, when I leave for my labs- I am not back until the 28th.  I cannot wait.  I am also very, very thankful that my RA and Fibro are not out of control with all of the stress and physical work I have been doing.  I have minor "flares" here and there but usually by this time I would be in full body mode.  Maybe my body knows I just can't do this right now.  At the moment I can just brace up and go on about my business.  That in itself is something to celebrate! 

I am also a little proud of the fact that I have been able to let go a little and not beat myself up.  I am not going to be able to get everything done that I wanted before our Open House on Monday but I am okay with it. I can run reports to show what I am talking about and I can talk through any issues and I will be okay with it.  I was giving myself a very, very hard time about getting everything done but at some point this week I just threw up my hands and said "What will be,will be. "  Once I said that- I was okay.  The weight lifted and I started sleeping a *little* better.  All in all- it has been a crazy, busy, enlightening week and I am so very glad it is almost over.  I am looking forward to next week to get everything on track so I can leave for the holiday and not worry about it.  Oh- AND I finished my Christmas shopping!  SO much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Post and Run

Well, if yesterday was any indication we will definitely hit our goals this week- but it's going to be a tough week overall.  This is when we are feeling the crunch of our lack of people.  On the bright side, when we finish - we can raise a glass of Sparkling Cider (no Champagne thanks to the darned MTX) and feel very proud that we have gotten so far. 

Despite the long hours, despite the fact that my co-assistant manager and I are VERY cranky @ the end of the day, despite the hard work- we can be very proud that we made it.  More, I can be thankful that I have a husband who is handling not being sure when I will be home and working with it so well. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hard Lessons

Well, I thoroughly overdid it this week and  it looks as if the next few weeks will be the same.  In a way it's my own fault- but on the other hand, it really can't be helped.  They downsized about a month ago at work.  We lost 3 full time people.  We also have two more who are out on medical leave.  That means that where we had 8 full time folks last year at this time- we now have three.  The work doesn't change no matter how many or few people we have so it has to be done. 

I work in a college bookstore.  This time of year is our "crunch time".  From the fall to the Spring semester we only have weeks to send back all of the fall books that are left and bring in all of the Spring semester books.  Obviously Spring to Fall is much easier as we have months. Last Monday when I got back from vacation- by the end of the day we had NINE pallets of books in our back room.  On top of that, our buyback is ramping up- next week is the major week for it and kids have been coming all week this past week to sell their books which has kept us hopping.  Because things have been so crazy, I have been going in to work between 6 and 6:30 and leaving between 6:30 and 8pm so that I can get things done before and after the store is open.  Yesterday, I spent four hours putting out new shelf tags for new orders and shifting books to make room for new ones.  Then, I spent 6 hours opening boxes and stocking shelves.  It is hard physical work.  I got a GOOD workout- which would be great for my weight loss efforts if I wasn't in so very much pain this morning.  The biggest problem is that we have deadlines.  This week I will be out of the store the majority of the day doing buyback in a different building-and the rest of the store will be doing the same thing on site so we won't get much done in the back room.  Next Monday we are having an open house for our faculty- by which time every book needs to be on the shelf.  Period.  I could easily go in today and work for another 10 hours and not be done.  And it is freaking me out. 

Now here is why it is on my head as well.  It would be very easy to just say that we don't have the time or people and let things go a little- but I just can't do it.  I feel like my store manager (who is out on med leave) my regional manager and our client are counting on me to make sure that service does not suffer in the wake of our personnel issues.  I also planned this very first faculty open house for our store.  It is so that we can network with the professors and show them that their books are here, as they ordered and that we are here to make their semester start smoothly.  I am trying to remedy the disconnect that has been in place for years and the last thing I want to do is fall on my face.  So,  I am feeling the pressure and that is driving me to over do it.  I just can't make myself let go and not be involved with every step because I feel like it is on my shoulders. 

What does this mean?  It means I have to make a choice to either let go- or live with the pain.  At this point I am choosing to keep going- but after this is over and after rush (which is our first few weeks of the semester-rush ends essentially Feburary 1st) it will be time for me to really reevaluate.  I know that next year- I cannot push myself like this- and that makes me fearful for my career. 

This has been a very difficult and eye opening lesson.  I am grateful to have it.  It is changing the way I see myself (what do you MEAN I am not invincible!?!) and my visions for my future.  I am only thankful that I have time to look at it and make whatever decisions will serve me and my body best.  I am also thankful that I have the week of Christmas off to recover before heading right back into rush. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Getting to Gratitude - Having a Positive Day.

Little Things You Can Do to Have a Positive and Gratitude Filled Day

For my final post in this series, I wanted to share some small, simple things that I do to make my day one of positivity and gratitude.

  • Start the day off right. Before your feet hit the ground- think of something for which to give thanks- even if it is just that you woke up this morning!
  • While you are getting ready for your day- visualize the things you have to do in a positive light. See your commute going smoothly, meetings going well, your day being productive. Take a few deep breaths and see your day going exactly as you would like it to go. When you approach your tasks with positivity even when things don't go your way it is not so bad.
  • Do something for yourself. It could a special treat, a gift of quiet time, a few solitary minutes to pray or meditate. You can give yourself a facial, a bath with essential oils, a manicure and pedicure. Check a book out of the library that you wanted to read. Anything that is just for you! You deserve something special in your life.
  • Do something for someone else. It could be as simple as opening a door for someone whose hands are full or letting someone go before you in traffic. It could be completely anonymous or very personal. It doesn't have to be big. One example of this is recently when I was at the grocery. I was a little bummed out about my very limited budget and was starting to stew. I knew that I had gotten everything that I needed and between sales and coupons- I would have a dollar or two left. Waiting to be rung up I looked and looked at the chocolate (I was hungry while shopping- big mistake) as I was feeling a little sorry for myself. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the “donate a gift of groceries” slips stuck up on top of the soda cooler. They come in $1, $2 and $5 denominations. Rather than choosing a candy bar (those Turtles were calling my name)- I chose the dollar slip and added it to my groceries. As she rang it up I thought to myself “My budget may be limited- but at least I can afford to share a little- things aren't so bad after all.” It brought a smile to my heart and made me feel better about my own situation.
  • Give yourself something positive to focus on. Plan to do something that you enjoy on the weekend or in a week or two so that you have something to look forward to in the coming days. When you do that- plan something else. Always keep something good coming down the pike.
  • Reach out to someone that you love. Send them an email, a handwritten letter or give them a call just to tell them that you appreciate them and are glad they are in your life.
  • Take a walk around the block. Notice the color of the sky, the sun or the stars. Find something particularly unusual or beautiful and give thanks for having found it.
  • Embrace your inner child. Go to a park and swing on the swings. Color a picture with crayons, finger paint, anything that you haven't done in years that brings back fond memories of your childhood.
  • End your day the way you began it. As soon as you lay down in your bed, think of things you are thankful for that happened throughout the day or that are on your mind. Ending the day focusing on things you can be grateful for makes for more peaceful sleep.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting to Gratitude- Getting to YOUR Attitude of Gratitude

How to find YOUR Attitude of Gratitude.

There are many different ways that a person can cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude. Just one of these things will start you on your own path and as it becomes habit, you can add another and another. These are just a few of the ways that I kick my gratitude into gear when I am feeling down or feeling the negativity creeping in to my life.

1.Give yourself a few moments each day to think back over your day and give thanks for the best thing that happened to you.

2.Start a gratitude journal. Whether on-line or on paper, when you write down the things that you are grateful for they become concrete and powerful.

3.Change your perspective. When you are having a bad day or are feeling negative- STOP. Take whatever is bothering you and think of ways that it might be worse. Realize that while your problem IS a problem- you are fortunate that it isn't worse.
  • 1. Did you have a bad day at work? You have a job and many don't.
  • 2.Do you have the flu? You don't have pneumonia!
  • 3.Kids driving you crazy? They are healthy, they are yours and they love you.
  • 4.Roof sprung a leak? You have a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in tonight.
See what I mean? Any situation can be turned around if you stop and think about it and find the blessings inside it.

4.Use post-its to remind you. On your bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on your steering wheel or any surface that you see on a regular basis, post this sentence: “Right now I am grateful for_______”

These are just a few of the ways that you can begin to bring gratitude into your life.  If you are stuck for ideas on things to be grateful for- I suggest Googleing it.  Gratitude has become a huge movement and there are pages galore with things that folks are grateful for. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting to Gratitude...

Getting to Gratitude-

I have devoted a lot of space in this blog to the changes we have made in our lives by making this move. For that reason I am not going to spend a lot of times on how our lives have changed but skip that and get to the gratitude portion.

Not long after we moved out to Southern Indiana I was sitting on my porch one morning, with a cup of coffee and reflecting on all of the wonderful things that had happened since I had begun to see the positives in my life. While I was sitting there, looking out at the peaceful setting I realized that I was happier then than I had been in a very long time in my old life.

I began tracing my steps backward one good thing by one good thing until I realized that all of these changes in my life that had brought me to this point had begun with my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. In that moment it came to me that what should have been the worst thing in my life had actually brought me so very much for which I could be grateful. It was a revelation for me. I was shocked, I was awed, and I felt very much at peace in that moment. Shortly after, my hubby woke up and we went on with our day but in the back of my mind for the rest of that day and many days after that revelation was sitting there working its way around in my brain.

I started taking notice of the blessings in my life. The more I noticed- the more I found and the more thankful I felt. That morning was a definitive turning point for me. I found that I could start and end each day with giving thanks for something- big or small in my life, and when I did this, my day was a little brighter, my stress level lower and the peace I felt inside was bigger.

It is not always easy. I have bad days when I just forget. I have days when I am so tired that I just want sleep. I have days when I find that I am going back to the same things over and over and get into a rut. It was one of those ruts that inspired this blog. This blog has given me an outlet, a record, a lasting look at the wonderful things in my life. I share my joys here and my struggles and I am lucky enough to have folks who care enough to read these words and give me their feedback. When that happens- I know that I am not alone in the journey to remember to be grateful and to find peace in my life. That in itself gives me more to be grateful for.

I have learned that blessings and gratitude are cyclical. The more you see your blessings and are grateful for them- the more blessings you receive. I have also learned that negativity works in the same fashion. I don't know about you- but I would much rather live my life with the positives than the negatives.

In my very first entry to this blog I wrote:

It's very easy to get caught up in what is "wrong" in your life. Focusing on the bad things not only allows us to wallow in our own misery but it also invites everyone we come in contact with to a giant pity party. Physically, it drags us down as if the weight of the world is on our shoulders. It causes tension headaches, TMJ disorders, ulcers, and various other physical manifestations.

Have you ever spent a fair amount of time around someone who is always down? It is not a pleasant experience. You either spend all of your time taking in their stuff until you are down with them- or you expend all of your energy trying to raise their spirits. They are energy vampires and you are their prey! I don't want to BE that vampire! I want to learn to let things go more quickly and to focus on the positive. I want to radiate inner peace. To do that- I need to focus on what is great in my life, not take the little things and blow them up into all consuming issues

I still feel that way today. I also feel that though I have made progress- I still have a long way to go and if I can help one person find something in their lives to be grateful for, I will be successful. I thank you for joining me on this journey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Getting to Gratitude -Sometimes Life just Works Out

Sometimes Life Just Works Out

During all of this going on in my life- there were other things going on that were out of my control and very stressful. The owners at my second job (and hubby's job) started looking for a buyer for their business. One of my beloved uncles was diagnosed with lung cancer and we lost him very, very quickly. My darling – and young- mother had a stroke and scared the daylights out of all of us.

My husband and I sat down and talked about our possibilities. Because I had a “child” who was actually an adult and my sisters have smaller children, we thought it might be best for us to consider moving closer to my parents. Even his parents were very supportive of us making this change in our lives.

I had already begun practicing a positive attitude and looking at the good things in my life and again fortune smiled on us. My main job is with a national company who believes in moving their people up and around. I put my resume out there and let my regional manager know what area I was looking for. Within a few months- I was offered a job that was only two and a half hours from Mom and Dad's house.

It was as if it were meant to be. The company paid for the move, I was able to schedule it for after my finals and we had enough time to really put things in order in our “old” life and prepare for our new. It was as if a weight had been lifted from our shoulders. We had no fear, we had only high hopes. Our only regret was that our son decided not to join us on this journey, but it is for the best for him because he is learning a lot of life lessons that he may not have had he come with us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting to Gratitude - My Support System

My Support System-

One of the most important things you can have in your life is a solid support system. It can make a HUGE difference in your life. My support system has been one of my biggest blessings in my life.

At the time of my diagnosis- I was a wife, parenting a teenager, working two jobs (hubby was working tons of hours a week at his job), I was going to college and just didn't have time in my life for this! I got angry again- and then I got determined. Maybe there was no way to be cured- but I didn't have to let RA take over my life. My illness may be a part of my life but I would not allow my disease become who I am.

Fortunately, I am blessed with a husband who is willing to support me in anything. You would not believe the number of stories that I read where the writer's family was either just not supportive or where the family broke up under the weight of the diagnosis and ensuing treatments. When I needed to cry- my husband held me. When I was angry, my husband put up with me lashing out at him for anything and everything under the sun. When I became determined to change the way I was handling this whole situation- he was my biggest “cheerleader”. He was willing to listen and learn along with me the different options for treatments, he would ask questions I did not think of and he would help me by bouncing ideas back and forth. No matter how crazy or radical my ideas were, he supported me.

I was also very lucky that when I was diagnosed my son was 18 years old. He was old enough to understand, to be concerned, to ask insightful questions. He was also at an age where he could be helpful when I needed it and be scarce when I was being miserable. In retrospect I am very glad that I had insisted that he learn to cook, to clean, to do his laundry and to be independent because I don't know how people in my situation handle raising small children. We already had a system in place because of all three of our work schedules, his karate schedule and other life “stuff” and that didn't have to change much. We only had to tweak it a bit to accommodate the things I needed more help with.

In addition to my son and husband, I had a good work situation as well. At my main job- my boss was also a dear friend. Each step of the way I could talk to her about the ups, the downs, the information that I had learned, the questions that I had and what I was feeling. Having a friend at work helped ease the situation and took the quandary of whether or not to tell my job about my illness out of my hands. At my “part time” job- it was an equally easy situation. Having been there for over 10 years, I had made some terrific friends and my bosses knew me. They knew my work ethic and they knew that if I was unable to do something- I was definitely not slacking off. It was because they had worked with me for so long that they were willing to let me tailor my workload to my pain and energy levels. An added plus was that my husband worked there full time and so they were kept in the loop through the whole process. It was a bonus that many of my friends also worked with me at one or both jobs and were interested enough to learn about the disease and easy my way when necessary.

Finally there was the rest of my family. Though we lived scattered across the US- they have always been only a phone call or an email away. When I received my diagnosis- I think we collectively burned up the Internet- each of us researching everything from the disease to the medications to the side effects and potential issues. We talked and talked, we emailed, and we passed info back and forth. Through the whole thing, I knew that they were there no matter what. The best part about my family is that each and every one of us comes from the place of “I love you and we will get through this.” It was when I thought about what I would say to one of them if they were in my shoes that this attitude kicked in. We have always been like this- it just took me some time to remember that.

I truly believe that had I not had all of this love and understanding in my life, it would have been a very different journey for me. I don't think I would have been able to develop the will I needed to change my life as quickly as I did. I might even still be allowing negativity and stress and my workaholic ways to dictate my life and I know I would have much more damage to my body.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting to Gratitude- The Beginning of my Journey

The Beginning of my Journey-

Several years ago, when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I never thought I might be grateful for this disease. Indeed, gratitude was the furthest thing from my mind. I was in acute pain. My hands would not straighten out for many, many hours after I woke, if at all. My feet felt like they were on fire all of the time. I had been through a series of cortisone injections for months because different joints and muscles had hurt and we had been treating everything from tendinitis to bursitis to “frozen shoulder syndrome”. Now I had a very smart, very trusted nurse practitioner telling me that I had an autoimmune disease, for which there was no cure, that would continue to cause me pain for the rest of my life and based on my rheumatoid factor levels, it was a very aggressive form which would probably land me in a wheelchair before I was 45 if we didn't start aggressive treatment. Gratitude? Are you kidding? My mind was spinning!

I went home and in the weeks that I waited to meet my new Rheumatologist I began researching RA. I read everything I could on the disease. I went through several of the stages of grief- Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression. I found message boards dedicated to RA and other chronic pain illnesses. While the message boards were fonts of information which helped me immeasurably to be prepared for my appointment with my rheumatologist, they also made me feel sad, scared and full of self pity as I read story after story of people living with the pain and suffering from this disease every day for years. The more I read, the worse my state of mind became because I saw the same posters over and over describing how miserable their lives were and how much they had lost because of their disease.

I met with my rheumatologist and we began treatment. He agreed that my RA was particularly aggressive and offered me treatment plans. He was very nice and very open with me but not particularly inspiring of hope. Businesslike is a good way to term his bedside manner. I didn't know of anyone else who had this disease so I spent a lot of my time reading stories from people in despair, people who had given up and let their disease take over their lives

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introducing "Getting to Gratitude"- A Six Part Series

While I was on my vacation I thought long and hard about this blog.  Some days it is a real struggle to think of something that is both interesting and from the heart.  Lately it seems that the struggle has become greater and so while I was on my trip I left it alone.  Rather than forcing the writing I used the time to reflect and meditate and look for joy. 

When I sat down at my computer this morning to get back to my routine, it came to me in a flash.  In order to get back to my place of gratitude I needed to go back to the beginning and really look at what brought me here.  I thought it might be a good piece for me to reflect back and remember how this began for me. 

I started writing hours ago.  As I wrote it flowed as if the tap had been turned on full force.  What I thought might be a small post to give myself a kick in the pants has turned into several pages thus far. 

I will begin publishing this tomorrow morning.  I invite you to read about my road and if you have published yours- link me to it so that I can see what motivates you as well. 

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

I am at the tail end of a wonderful vacation.  Last Monday I traveled from the Louisville area to central North Carolina with my folks.  We ran into some snags (a HUGE rock slide has closed the route we were taking and sent us a hundred miles out of the way), we had some giggles, we made some last minute changes to our itinerary and overall had a decent road trip with plenty of "stretch your joints and walk the dog" stops along the way.

  We arrived at my sister's home on Monday night to a host of hugs- we are big on affection in my family- and I settled in there while my parents moved on to the distinguished visitor's quarters at Seymour Johnson where they would spend the week. We basically just "hung out" together for the week- nothing planned and nothing pressing which makes for a relaxing time together.   On Wednesday evening, Lisa and I headed up to Raleigh-Durham International Airport to pick up my honey.  He arrived safe and sound and back down to the house we went. 

Thanksgiving was very typical of our family.  We girls pitched in to make the meal.  Mom and Lisa worked on the main meal while I contributed the cranberry tart things, a pineapple angelfood cake and the setting of the table and such.  Dad and Gary (Lisa's hubby) worked out in the yard and my honey did his thing as well.  We all sat down to our meal around four or four-thirty and then after a group clean up we retired to the living room to watch a movie together.  After the movie, Mom and Dad went back to their suite and we did our evening walk with the dogs.  As much as we didn't want to Jim and I went to repack our bag, shower and get ready for our return trip in the morning.  When we finished we reluctantly headed to bed knowing that none of us were going to get much sleep. 

Very early in the morning Lisa and I were up.  She was doing her own version of Black Friday Shopping- and I was getting antsy.  After she got home from a quick-wasted- trip to Walmart (who- of course- sold out of the item that she wanted within minutes because they only brought 16 of the item in-grrrrrrr) I got up and had my coffee with her while she was doing her online shopping.  By the time Mom and Dad got there around 7 we were all up and dressed.  Unfortunately- Dad was ready to get on the road so we rushed through the last minute packing (and I left most of my refridgerated items behind-lol) and gave our hugs and kisses and were out the door.  Though we ran into some snow in the mountains- the weather was actually not too bad for our ride home and we arrived at Louisville International Airport where my honey had left his car around 12 hours after we left NC.  We transferred our stuff into our car and headed home while Mom and Dad went down the road to stay the night before continuing on to their home Saturday morning. 

I have been very fortunate with this trip.  Until Saturday, the pain of both my RA and Fibromylagia have been very mild.  We stopped often and I was able to stretch and relax the whole trip.  I was fighting a cold or infection of some sort and managed to not get sick until I came home.  I also had two more days once I was home to recover and get mentally ready for my return to work. 

I have had so very much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Season.  I am blessed with a family who loves and cares about one another so very much.  I am blessed with sisters who are as generous as they are sweet.  I am blessed with a son, neices and nephews who are all good kids.  I am thankful that my beloved Harley is such a good traveler and a social little dog who wants to be friends with everyone- even my sister's cats who didn't understand it and wanted nothing to do with her-lol.  I am grateful that my health has held and I was able to contribute to the preparation of the family meal. 

I hope that each and every one of you has been as blessed as I have been this holiday season.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A few of my favorite things

Good morning all,

I am spending my day packing for my vacation to my sister's home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It will be a wonderful trip, beginning with a road trip with my parents to the wilds of North Carolina for Miss Harley and I, the hubbs flying in for just before the holiday as he has to work this week, and then the four (five) of us road tripping back on Friday.  It will be a joy to spend time with my sib and her family over the holiday- we can start by being thankful for that which puts us right in the spirit. 

Today I want to highlight some of my favorite blogs, websites and reading material.  Some of them are repeats, some are new even to me. 

**The first section is about our adopted home town of Louisville.  As much as I am a fan of national stores (Sephora, Whole Foods, Vickies) and some national chain restaurants, it is easy to rely on them when you move to a new town or visit an area.  Blogs like these show us the "real" city from an insider's view and allow us to find places beyond those we stumble upon (Oh FABD, how we love you) when we do our semi-weekly explorations of the city and give our money to local concerns and help our local economy.  Should you ever visit "The 'Ville"- read these first! Kudos to these sites also for pointing the readers to other sites and blogs that we can explore.  The lack of pretention is one of the things I LOVE about this area.

My Loueyville gives a fresh view of what is happening right now in Louisville.  When I found this blog- I sat down and read the first year without realizing that so much time had passed.  This witty and informative blog mixes personal experience with the city's offerings and when you read, you feel like you know this writer personally.  By going back and reading through I have noted several yearly events that have piqued my interest and I will watch for in the coming year, I have read about markets that interest us both and we can't wait to check out and- best of all- through twitter communications with the author- we FINALLY found a pizza that does it for us.  If you follow me on facebook you know that I was ready to weep with joy when we had Spinelli's pizza yesterday.  Yeah- it's that good. 

Consuming Louisville Supports all things Louisville .  Restaurants, Shopping, Events- it is all covered on this website.  I especially love Michelle's "no negative reviews" policy.  That tells me that if it is listed on her site- it is worthy my limited spending budget.  As someone who has spent her working life in both hospitality and retail- I know that negative reviews can be based on everything from the true experience, to not finding exactly what you want (ask my hubby how many times that happens to me and how it ticks me right off!) and to your mood.  I respect that Michelle does not publish these and appreciate that I can scroll through her site and find all sorts of neat things and things we have been looking for info on (like Frankfort Ave Final Friday's!) in a positive manner.

Louisville Hot Bytes is the go-to site for any foodie.  What I love about this site is that not only does it cover Louisville but it recognizes that there are places on "our side of the bridge" (aka- Southern Indiana) that are unique and worthy coverage.  Sometimes we just don't feel like dealing with traffic and want to stay close to home- and Hot Bytes is a place we can go to find a balanced review on all types of restaurants. 

**Next we will go to my favorites for anyone living with a chronic illness.  When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, it is incredibly overwhelming, as you begin to explore and settle into life with that illness, it helps to know that you are not alone.  The blogs show you that not only can we live with our disease- but we don't have to let our disease define us.  Please note that the blogs are based toward Rheumatoid Arthritis- but anyone who is chronically ill can see the possibilities.

The Mayo Clinic   I cannot say enough about the Mayo Clinic's website.  For years I relied on WebMD but once I found Mayo- I never went back.  It is by far the most comprehensive, most user-friendly and most understandable medical website out there amongst a plethora of medical websites.  The page I directed you to is their disease index.  A great starting point for someone who has just been diagnosed with an illness you know nothing about. 

The Arthritis Foundation I cannot leave out the Arthritis Foundation.  As someone who has both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, the foundation is a wealth of information for both of my illnesses and a host of other autoimmune disorders. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy  If you read nothing else- you have to read his 60 Second Guide to RA.  It is the perfect way to explain to your loved ones and others what this disease is and means for you.  If you stick around, you will enjoy the tour of his daily life and his musings.  He is blatently honest about his different struggles and you share his victories with him.  Men are definitely outnumbered in the RA world- but our own RA Guy has a voice loud enough for all of them.

RA Warrior  Mixing education with thought provoking posts and a healthy dose of positivity, Kelly not only shows her warrior side but makes you feel like a warrior too.  Many of her posts will educate you while entertaining you, whether you have this disease or not.  Check out each of the posts on the nav bar- from RA 101 to Onset Stories, each section is a must read.

The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis  Sara is our "face" of RA.  Young, single and lovely, looking at her you would never know that she lives with this devastating disease.  What I love about Sara's blog is that you don't have to be young (I'm not) or single (I'm not) to be able to relate to her experiences and enjoy her blog.  She is funny and fabulous- much like the girlfriend you want to hang out with- she just happens to have RA.  That makes her a perfect "ambassador" for our world. 

My recommedation is to explore each of these three sites- and then follow their links to other bloggers and find the ones that fit your style.  My personal bookmarks list is so long that I could type for a week and not be finished.  The RA blogger world is extensive and we all have our strong suits.  You will also see that some of the same blogs are listed on each site- give those special attention.  I guarantee that they are on my list. 

**Simplicity and Inspiration- Part of my quest for living a positive and grateful life has included finding inspiration and living a more simple life.  These websites are a wonderful help in that direction.

Zen Habits  Leo's website focuses on simple productivity.  These columns come every day to my email and very often I end up forwarding them to my work email and printing them to keep. 

Happy News The tag line here is "Real news.  Always happy."  I start every morning with the news- and GOODNESS is it depressing!  Happy News is the antidote to that.  A fun read, it will put a smile on your face. 

Think Exist  I shouldn't give away my secrets- but I love this website.  It is where I find many of the quotes that I post on facebook to start my day in a positive way.  Put in a keyword and quotes will abound!

**Recommended Reading

Real Simple Magazine  I read quite a few magazines.  For the most part, I sit down with a magazine, rip out the stories I want to read, the tips that I want to get back to, recipes I want to try and pitch the rest.  Not Real Simple.  There is always so very much of this magazine that is good content that I stopped tearing it up and started collecting the whole magazine (fortunately- my mom not only gets it- but gave me a subscription the last two years).  At this time, I have almost a whole shelf of these wonderful magazines and I look forward to accumulating them for many more years. 

O Magazine You don't have to be a fan of Oprah (though I am) to enjoy the magazine.  Included in each issue are stories of people overcoming great odds or triumphing after tragedy.  There are things to make you stop and think about your own life, to give you hope, to make you look inside and to show you that things really aren't so bleak.  This magazine stirs my spirit with each issue. 

The Chicken Soup Series With almost 200 titles in print co- authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen have at least one title that will fit anyone's life.  I don't know how many of these books I own, or how many I have read over and over but it is a lot!  In each reading I laugh, I cry and my faith in humanity is restored.  If you have never read a Chicken Soup book, I dare you to go to your local flea market, used book store or yard sale and pick one up and read it.  If you are not touched in any way, well I just wouldn't know what to say. 

Elaine St. James' Simplifying Books  Ms. St. James books are all about simplifying the various aspects of your life.  Straightforward and easy to read and implement, Ms. St. James ideas at both times make you say "Ah-HA!" and "Why didn't I think of that?".  I recommend each of the books in the series and they have a place on my shelf next to my Real Simple magazines. 

I hope that at least one thing on this list strikes a chord with you.  I love sharing them and I am thankful that I have this medium to do so.  I am also very grateful that you give me the time that it takes to read this blog.  I hope you all have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving Holiday. 

When I return- I am hoping to have new ideas for a new series to take me from Thanksgiving to the New Year and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.  Your feedback means the world to me.  Thank you!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I made it!

Just four hours of work this morning until I officially begin my vacation.  I need this a lot.  I am a firm believer that vacation is not a destination, it is a state of mind.  I will be just as content home this weekend with my honey and my pup as I will be next week on a road trip with my parents and then at my sister's home for the holiday. 

I am starting my morning with tea today.  First White, then Green, probably going back to White to take to work with me.  For the next 72 hours I am off solid "food".  I will be enjoying some lovely Bolthouse Farms  and Odwalla  Juices, water and teas.  For some reason I need my warm beverages in the morning.  No- I know the reason- because I need my heat on these chilly mornings both for my hands and my insides.  For my juices I have chosen Odwalla Superfoods (both the Green Original and Berries Go Mega) and the Bolthouse Farms Blue Goodness and Green Goodness, all filled with antioxidents, veggies, fruits, and no preservatives, no added sugars, none of the other stuff that you don't want when you are trying to help out your system.  I am doing this because my liver enzymes are elevated again and I do NOT want to go off my Methotrexate.  In my research I have found that alcohol consumption and obesity are two factors that contribute to liver illness besides medications.  Since I have only consumed 4-5 alcoholic beverages in the year and a half since I started my meds- my target is my weight.  After I complete this 72 hours, I will be focusing on foods that are good for your liver.  Fruits, veggies, whole grains, limited amounts of poultry.  I will be staying away from red meats, white breads, white pastas and things that are difficult for my liver to process.  NOW- the most important lesson I learned from Weight Watchers is that denying myself things I love will be the easiest way to fail at this lifestyle change.  So- for example- at Thanksgiving dinner, I will have a slice of turkey, a small amount of stuffing and the rest of my meal will be veggies.  One fabulous bit of news this morning is that COFFEE may actually stop liver disease!  YAY!  That means I can go back to my coffee on Monday morning and not worry about it in the slightest.  As a coffee addict- that is wonderful news! 

Well-I am off to work those last few hours before I come home, climb into my jammies and take a nice nap.  I am so grateful to have made it through the last few weeks and up to today.  It has been a rough road and now it is at an end.  Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh Thank GOODNESS for small miracles.

My parents were in a very scary car accident last night. It scared them at the time- it scared us girls when we each got the message. I cannot express how thankful we are that they were not injured. That they even walked away is a minor miracle.

Picture this:

It is a rainy night and my parents are on the way to a birthday dinner. They are on a fairly populated street that was recently repaved with hot top so everything is a little dark. Dad's cute little convertable (that mom "got" him for their anniversary last February) is cruising down the road in the right lane at a moderate speed. A big old rock and gravel truck in the left lane goes to change lanes and clips the rear end of "Little Red" causing it to swing around in front of said truck which then broadsides them. The driver- not aware that he had hit my parents and thinking he had blown a tire- pushes them approximately 200 ft basically attached to his bumper before coming to a stop. Still not aware that he had hit them, he then starts to drive to pull over to the right side- taking them and their car with him before he stops again.

Mom said that when she looked toward Dad while they were being pushed sideways- the bumper of the truck was level with my father's head. She actually reached up to touch his head to make sure that the bumper WASN'T touching it.

I think if I had been in the car- I would have needed new pants. Needless to say- only the insurance adjuster and the body shop know if they will be shopping for a new "Little Red"- but MOST importantly my parents walked away with just some soreness.

Tonight I am so eternally grateful that they are both okay. I am also grateful that they chose the Chrysler Sebring rather than an MG or a Spyder or one of the little convertables because that choice may have very well saved their lives. I am grateful that "Little Red" was long enough that it nearly covered the bumper end to end- meaning that the weight of the truck was evenly distributed across the car and the bumper didn't go further into the car. I am grateful that neither they, nor the truck was speeding in that residential area and that people who lived there cared enough to not only come out when they heard the initial impact but to wait for the police and give statements. I am thankful that the police were gentle with my very, very shaken mother and let Dad handle it while she gathered her wits about her. I am also thankful that I am blessed to only have 6 more days till I can hug their necks and kiss their faces and show them how glad I am to have them safe and sound.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There's nothing like a little productivity

To put you back on the straight and narrow.  I had to work yesterday.  After a really, really rough week, I was not particularly looking forward to spending the better part of my Saturday at work.  I had a particularly good student employee with me and I enjoy working with her so that was a good thing.  When I got in there and we got everything ready to open- I looked at my desk and all of the mounting paperwork and I could feel the sense of being overwhelmed coming back.  I took a deep breath and decided then and there that I was not allowing it. 

I gathered up all of my things and pulled out my calendar and a blank sheet of paper.  I went through each and every piece of paper and as I looked at it, I added deadlines to my calendar, wrote down a rough "to-do list" and properly organized everything that I needed to keep and ruthlessly tossed everything else.  Once I had restored order the weight lifted.  Just about that time we started to get busy so in between customers I started working on that list and was able to get more done in those few hours than the pervious two days combined.   When I closed the store and set the alarm I was so grateful that I had Katie working with me, i was grateful that I had gotten things in order and grateful that that overwhelming feeling was gone. 

Saturday night we went out for an early dinner.  PF Chang's is one of our favorite places and my dearest friend sent us a gift certificate after her visit so we used it.  Dinner was marvelous, the service was terrific and we got there early enough that we didn't have to wait and could just go right in and enjoy a leisurely meal.  After we left there, while we on our way home- my neck cramped up.  I mean POW- like a hot poker.  By the time we got home and changed into our pajamas- the pain had worked its way down all the way to my lower back.  Sounds rotten huh?  Actually I feel very fortunate that Jim got to see how it actually comes on this time.  Usually I wake up with the pain or it happens before he gets home from work.  For him to see it actually happen and us to discuss it was actually a blessing because now he can see how the Fibro differs from the RA. 

Today, Harley let me sleep in a bit which was wonderful because getting to sleep last night was not easy.  I got up feeling much better so we went to the grocery and I picked up a rotisserie chicken and the other things I needed to make a pot pie.  While we were talking about it I decided that since I was feeling up to it I would do a somewhat big cooking.  I made two pot pies so I could freeze one and cleaned the rest of the chicken for soup later this week.  I also planned out what else I will make this week.  While I got this all done, my darling husband cleaned and vacuumed the living room- even though we were planning on doing it together today. 

All in all it was an incredibly productive weekend.  I feel like my mind is clear and I have a "plan" for the week.  What a blessing that is!  It is also a wonderful way to end and start the week. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Riding the Roller Coaster

     From last Friday through today I have been on an emotional roller coaster.  In fact, I have watched RA Guy's roller coaster video several times because it was very appropriate for what I was feeling.  My work life has been a very, very stressful place for me, and the stress has physically manifested in constantly aching muscles and chronic fatigue.  This, of course, has made me moody as I dealt with the physical and emotional ramifications of the stress and knowing that I have no choice but to spend 8-10 hours a day in the heart of it.

     I have tried every trick I know to stay positive.  I have read inspirational quotes, I have journaled, I have stayed away from things like the news, I have made gratitude list after gratitude list and I have reached out to my support system but none of these things have stopped the ride.  Now is the time to change my tactics and try to get back on solid ground.

     Here is my game plan: 

  • First thing I need to do is take stock.  I need to see what I can change and what is beyond  my control and then let go of the things that I cannot do anything about.
  • I need to step back and look at this from a different perspective.  This close to the situation it seems as if this is an insurmountable problem- but if I step back and force myself to look at this from the outside I may see that my mountain is indeed a mole hill.
  • I need to break the obstacles and the work into small goals- and celebrate when I reach them.
  • I need to make time to take care of myself.  I cannot let my health suffer for this. 
  • I need to stop trying to force the gratitude.  Making my lists when I am under a lot of stress doesn't feel right.  It doesn't bring the peace or the joy that I am trying to acheive.  I have realized that it is better to have one thing that I am TRUELY grateful for than a whole host of things that I am reflecting on out of a sense of obligation. 
  • I need to work on compartmentalizing.  I need to leave work at work, and enjoy the 14 hours a day that I am not there. 
  • I need to stop looking forward and look at NOW.  I need to ask myself what can I do at this moment to change the situation and do what needs to be done?
  • I need to stop and breathe.  Just breathe.  Focusing on my breathing allows me to relax some of the tension that creeps back in every chance it gets.
     I feel that these steps will get me off that roller coaster and lessen my stress.  Hopefully that will allow the fibro flare to subside and allow me to get the sleep I need and will stop the flare of the RA that is already rearing its ugly head.   Hope- that is something that I feel today that I haven't felt in a week- and that in itself is a positive thing and indicates that I am heading in the right direction. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Can we be grateful for pain?

I know- that sounds crazy doesn't it?  This morning I woke up and the muscles from the elbow to the wrist on both of my arms are just aching.  Both pinkies and shoulders are "talking to me" as well.  It made it particularly difficult to do anything with my hair and to stir, stir,stir my steel cut oats for breakfast.    After several weeks of feeling wonderful- how can I be grateful for the pain I am experiencing this morning? 

  • This is a nagging pain, not a sharp pain. Given the option- I will go with nagging
  • Even though I have pain- I still have movement and use of these joints and muscles and the pain will serve as a reminder not to overdo.
  • Though it came on suddenly- I have not changed my habit so I have several hours in which to medicate and care for myself before I go to work. By 8am it will be manageable.
  • I had two almost completely pain free days prior to this- and they were on a weekend. That means that I didn't spend my two days off dealing with the pain and was able to enjoy them.
  • It is a reminder that not matter what I do or don't do (I did a whole lot of nothing yesterday) it can sneak up on me any time so I can't become complacent in taking care of myself.

 There we go- that gives me five simple reasons to start my day in a grateful mindset.  That is much better than railing against my illnesses and allowing this to start my week in a funk.   It ties back to celebrating the small things from yesterday.  These are all small things-and though I am not celebrating the pain by any stretch of the imagination- they have made a big difference in my mood this morning. 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celebrating the small things

I am one of those people that is fairly easily frustrated. Of course frustration leads to aggravation which leads to stress which leads to direct issues with my RA and Fibro. Needless to say, this is one of the things that I am working on.

One way that I am trying to combat this is by remembering to celebrate the small things in life. This allows me to banish the negativity brought on by the frustration and get back to a positive place very quickly.

Some examples of things I am celebrating today?

  • After 15 months- my hair is finally long enough to put into a pony tail again (long story- won't bore you)
  • Getting up early this morning meant being able to watch the sun rise over the trees. 
  • I found some good recipes and articles in the stack of magazines that I have been neglecting- and I will have time today to get them clipped and organized.
  • I was able to update Dad's website this morning and have that task completed for the month.
  • I was given a new neat notebook and pen set this week and I have found a purpose for it. 
  • I was given a reminder to plan my meals and exercise for the coming week.
These are all very small things in the grand scheme, but they are all steps in a positive direction.  My goal is to focus on those small things today- and find more and more to celebrate until my frustration is gone and my heart and mind are at peace.

I hope that you all have a lot of small things to celebrate each day and that they remind you of all of the blessings in your life.  Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Harley has brought to my life- and vice versa.

It is such a beautiful morning here in Kentuckiana. It is around the high 50's to low 60's- perfect hoodie weather- and when I took Miss Harley-Dog for her walk the leaves were crunching under our feet, the sun was shining down on us and it looks to be a bright day. It is really funny to take her walking in the fall. She loves to play in the leaves and she is okay with the crunchy sound but when I shuffle (not on purpose but we walk in the morning to get my hips going and they don't always work properly) she jumps like it is a gunshot.

They say that the longer you have your pets, the more you begin to look alike. I don't think she and I look much alike (though when we grow out her hair and she gets wooly she looks an awful lot like my honey-LOL!) but she is very much like me in temperment. She is pretty low-key, loves a good long nap, likes to snuggle but only when she feels like it. Some days she takes it slow, some days she is so full of energy that she is like a puppy. She loves to play- again when she feels like it- but when she is done, she is done and nothing can budge her. When she is chasing squirrels or bunnies (she thinks that's her job) she goes at it with a single minded focus- nothing can deter her from completing that job which entails getting that "pest" out of our yard. She loves being "home"- be it our own home or my parents home. She likes to go on car rides and new adventures but at the end of the day she is happiest in her own place. We are the same "age" (42 for me and 42 "dog years" for her) so it is interesting to see how the years affect us going forward.

Miss Harley also has qualities that I wish that I had. She is very social. She will go up to ANY dog or person, big or small and assume they are supposed to be a friend. When she sees another dog on the street her little tail wags so hard one thinks it might just wag off. She is genuinely happy to see any one who might give her loves. She is also FEARLESS. Now that is something I would love to be. Oh, there are things that startle her (like very loud noises) and some that even scare her(big storms)- but for the most part she will go anywhere, do anything and approach anyone or anything without fear. I so wish I had that kind of bravery. She has no problem "asking" for help. She is allowed on all of our furniture here and most of the furniture at my parents and if she doesn't think she can make the jump up there- she will make increasingly loud "boofs" until someone helps her up. She doesn't give up, she doesn't just go to another chair or couch that she can get up on- she waits until she has the help that she needs. I haven't quite gotten there mentally yet- but I am trying. If she doesn't like something (like being groomed) she will dig in and avoid it at all costs- but when she realizes that can't win, she behaves herself with the grace of a true lady. It makes me laugh when she backpeddles like mad to avoid going into the door of the groomer to the point that I have to pick her up and carry her in- and then they tell me how wonderfully she behaves.

From us she is learning trust and security. We adopted her from a shelter about 20 months ago and you can literally see how she has blossomed knowing that we are here, we are not leaving her, and we love her. Her whole personality has changed as well as her size and gait. She walks with a confidence these days with her head held high, she "demands" what she wants now, she has found her voice and her place in our family. She is learning routines, she is learning to enjoy more contact and she is learning that when she wants to be left alone, if she goes to her "room" (aka her decked out crate) she will get the alone time that she seeks.

She is our first "little" dog (last was a pure rottie who was bigger than me- she is a yorkie mix) but she takes a huge space in our hearts. As much as we are teaching her- I am learning from her as well. I am so grateful that I found her and that we were able to bring her into our home and our lives. Because she is so very social now, we are considering giving her a brother or sister pup if we can find just the right little guy or girl to share her life, but considering that we were so very lucky with her- we will take our time to pick just the right "personality" to complement her.

If you have not been blessed with a furry family member of your own, I wish that you could find the joy of having one in your life. They lift your spirits, they are completely loyal and always glad to see you. They can take your worst day and, if not turn it around, give you comfort that no human can give. The unconditional love between a "pet" and their human is so pure that I wish everyone could be touched by it at some point in their lives.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Finding friends in unusual places.

Yesterday my sister posted one of those "How did we meet?" things on Facebook. You know, the "post this on your status and see who answers" thing. I, of course, had the compulsion to be a smartass and left the comment that "my mom gave you space in her uterus"- something only an older sister would say. :-) Those things always make me think though. I refuse to post the "one word that reminds you of me" because some of my friends are just as much smartasses as I am and would be rude and crude- and my Daddy and my Son are on my facebook page. But the "how did we meet?"- that one made me look at my list and think about how I met those who I hold dearest in my heart.

A half a dozen of my dearest friends, I met at work. Working day in and day out together allowed us to form a bond of shared experiences. The busy times showed us how the other person handles themselves under pressure and the slow times let us learn more about one another as people. No matter what our ages or our different places in life- being in the "trenches" together trancends those boundaries and lets you connect when you allow yourself to be open to it. It's not something I have allowed myself to do out here as of yet, partially because many of them have known one another for years (like-close to 50 years) and partially because I miss my "old" friends so much that I am not wanting to feel that again.

Another half dozen of the people that I hold dearest I actually met online. I don't know what it is-perhaps the anonymity of the web, or the fact that we don't live near enough to be a part of one another's "daily" lives, but I have a small circle of people that I met online that I can be more open with than even my closest "real life" friends. There is just something about being able to write it down and get it out and have someone read your words and answer you that allows you (or at least ME) say things that you just couldn't say in a face to face situation. Over the time that we have been together online-some for years and some for months-I have grown to know and care about my online friends as much as if they were sitting in a room with me. Day in and day out we share our joys and hurts, our triumphs and tragedies. I don't honestly know what I would do or where I would be without them. I can only be grateful that different online mediums brought them into my life.

The final place is much closer to home. As I have grown up and as I have made changes in my life, I have realized that there are three people who are, for me, the most important of my friends. They know ME and despite our differences still love me. That would be my two sisters and my darling husband.

Jim and I were friends before we ever started dating but once we did, that changed to a very deep love. We were very young and immature when we married and over the years there were many times that though we loved one another- we didn't necessarily LIKE one another. It wasn't until we moved out here and found a life that is less of a pressure cooker that we have rediscovered that friendship that we had so very long ago. These days, we not only love one another but there is a very deep friendship there too. And that is a true blessing. If this move had given us nothing else- it gave us that.

When I think of my sisters, I know how very fortunate I am to have them. We are so very different. Even though we were raised exactly the same, I cannot think of three more divergent lives than our adulthood has been. I often wonder-if we had NOT been sisters and had met as adults, would we even be friends? Somehow I doubt it which makes it all the more of a blessing that the fates gave us one another. We don't even have to speak to share our thoughts. We can read one another's faces, moods, body language without a word. We that connection that just cannot be broken. Geography seperates us physically but our hearts are always together. We split up- me to get married and move overseas, Heather for college and then Lisa to military service, when we were still teenagers and took one another for granted but over the years I have learned that they are genuinely terrific people and that if one of us needs the other- we are just a phone call or an email away. When I think of my friends relationships with their siblings- I can only be thankful that my sisters and I are able to see past the exterior and really enjoy one another. They are both wonderful, loving, smart, admirable women and terrific role models for their daughters and I am so lucky that I can call them my sisters.

You often hear that (and I truly believe) that our friends are the family that we choose, but I am doubly fortunate to have a family that I would never trade as well as friends that I have made my family.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Positivity and Fear

I am almost afraid to type this blog.  I am almost afraid that I will jinx myself.    Here it goes.  I feel good.  I don't mean like a good day/bad day kind of good.  I mean like pre-Rheumatoid Arthritis good.  I should be celebrating, right? 

I waited- but it has been two weeks now that I have felt progressively better and better and for the last few days I have felt-dare I say it?- almost my old normal.  Yes- I have aches and pains, but those are almost all muscular.  The fibromylagia is, in fact, in full force right now.  This tells me two things.  The stress that I am dealing with right now did indeed trigger a fibro flare- and it did NOT trigger an RA flare (knock wood).  We have also had really weird weather- thirty degree swings each day and that has not triggered a flare.  That means I need to watch more closely to see what does trigger my next flare. 

That last sentence is the crux of my fear.  In as much as I feel good now, I also feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I am sure that any and all of us know that feeling.  It is very hard to get past that and just enjoy the lack of stiffness and swelling.  It also makes me afraid to overdo it.  I know what is around the corner and I dont' want to make it come back.  It makes it very hard to be positive about this turn when that dread is sitting in the back of my mind.

It's funny.  I have become so used to working through my "new normal" that I probably do more than I should to show myself that I can be viable and useful- and now that I am feeling so much better than that level- I have a great fear of doing anything that will compromise this. 

There are two quotes that I have found that I will use to get myself back on the positive track:
Dale Carnegie said:

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind.

James Thurber said:

Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.

I have to use this to remind me that the only thing that is stopping me from taking things day by day and from enjoying this is my own mind. I also need to let go of the focus on this fear and focus on being aware of what my body is telling me.

I hope you all have a wonderful day. I know I am going to try!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Changing Patterns

Every once in a while, I find the need to shake things up.  I am sure we all do.  My normal routine is to get up, Monday through Friday at 4:40am, on Saturdays at 5:30 (and Sunday to turn off my alarm) and take little Miss Dog for her walk then have my coffee, get ready for my day- etc.  All in all, the routine suits me.  It gives me the "must" get up and get moving (to take the dog out) and then time to relax and get my kinks out and my joints working before I start my work day. 

This morning, when the alarm went off and the dog didn't stir other than to lift her head, I made a concious decision to shut the alarm off and take that extra 50 minutes and go back to sleep.  When I got up, I felt great.  I took her for her walk, came back inside, poured my coffee and rather than sitting down with my coffee and put on the news- I switched it up further.  I listened to the weather as I made a tomato and mozzerella salad for lunch, seperated my Wasa into containers, sliced my apple for my snack.  Now, the only thing left to do is to get dressed and put my coffee in my thermos pack the bag with my thermos and lunch and walk out the door.  Normally, I would still be trying to figure out what I wanted to bring for lunch and thinking about really starting the day with my mind going in fifteen directions at once.  Instead, I feel much more relaxed as I approach the 7:00 hour on a Monday morning.  What a delightful change of pace for me!  The only thing I "missed" was an hour of television as I usually use one of these hours to catch up on my DVR. 

This morning I am feeling blessed for having been given the opportunity to slightly break out of my routine and learning that I can still start my morning without feeling rushed.  I am also feeling blessed that my Rheumatoid Arthritis is at a stage that I am down to just about an hour of  stiffness and pain in the morning.  I am grateful  that I got a good night's sleep last night (almost a full 6 hours!) and didn't wake up with my Fibromyagia screaming at me.  In all, I am grateful for a wonderful start to this week.   I think tonight I will shut off my 4:40 alarm and see if I can duplicate it without the first wakeup. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Maybe it is something about stepping outside yourself and being someone completely different for a day- but I love it.  Dressing up from top to toe and mingling with other like minded souls- so very much fun. 

For many, many of my Massachusetts years I would get up early, put on my costume du jour, paint my face, apply the accessories and then catch two trains to get to Salem bright and early.  I would spend my day wandering in and out of shops, have lunch at Beerworks (and accompany it with my favorite Blueberry Ale with hard cider soaked whole blueberries floating on top-yum!) and see the historical sights.  I can't tell you how many times I have been through the museums.  Even as I think of it I smile.  In that environment, in costume, everyone talked to everyone, strangers ask to take photos on the street with you, the air is filled with a festive spirit.  If I was with friends or family we would tour all of the haunted houses and exhibits.  We would traverse the city from the Wharf to Essex Street and back.  If I were flying solo- I would take in different ghost tours and always participate in the Witches Commemorative Candlelight Samhain Walk that begins at Nu Aeon with the Temple of Nine Wells and flows through the streets to Gallows Hill.  This walk commemerates the Salem Witch Trials and those killed during that time. * Interestingly enough, since I have been gone they have changed it around almost exactly backward-lol. *  After that, it was time to join into the festivities downtown before taking the last train back to Boston and then home. 

Last Halloween was bittersweet.  I traveled back to Massachusetts for the weekend because I had been on Long Island for a business meeting.  I was able to spend time with my son, I was able to visit my brand new (one day old) nephew Cameron, and I was able to spend time with my mother-in-law for the last time.  Because of the purpose of the trip, I intentionally did not go to Salem but rather spent time in and around the area that we had lived for so many years.  Looking at it with fresh eyes and seeing all of the changes that had happened in 18 months since we had left only cemented my feeling of being "home" in Indiana.  When I left there it was with a feeling of peace for having made the decision to leave that life behind. 

This Halloween will be new for me.  For the first Halloween EVER I am staying home and passing out candy.  I know that it is something that millions of people do every year- but it's a first for me!  Even the first year we were out here we left a pumpkin filled with candy on a table outside and went out for the evening.  So tonight I am going to bundle up (it's going to be in the 50's) put a canvas chair outside and sit out there and wait for the Trick Or Treaters.  I would stay inside but all the knocking on the door will make Miss Dog go absolutely NUTS.  That means that from 6-9pm I will be outside with a book, a big bowl of Twizzlers and Snickers and just enjoy the next generation of Halloween lovers. 

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Halloween.  And don't forget to turn your clocks back tonight!  I am feeling very grateful that we get that extra hour of sleep because it has been a long, long, long week. 
I'll be back to haunt you in November. 

Halloween in Salem about 5 years ago....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cookbook

There is something very satisfying about starting with a few simple ingredients and turning it into something to nourish and something to be enjoyed by the ones you love.

As I look over my right shoulder I have a small shelving unit in my dining room. The top is reserved for Miss Dog's assorted foods, treats, and other paraphernalia. The bottom shelf is taken up by my pressure cooker and my spare decanter for my coffee pot-goodness knows it would be a state emergency if my coffee pot were to break! The middle shelf is filled to the brim with different cookbooks. There are diet cookbooks (South Beach, Weight Watchers) there are grocery store cookbooks, fundraising cookbooks and old standards like Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens. Next to that shelving unit is a big basket filled to overflowing with Taste of Home and Quick Cooking magazines. But the most special cookbook in my home and in my heart is a three ring binder with family recipes lovingly produced by my mother for us girls for Christmas in 1990. Mom introduces the cookbook by telling us that her thought was to share the family recipes with us and when she undertook the project she realized that there were several family members who she had no recipes from. She got on the phone with our grandmothers and reached out to the great aunts to get recipes from past generations. As she says in the introduction; what began as a cookbook became a gift of our heritage. Interspersed with the recipes are funny and touching stories of our family that we may never have known if not for this gift.

     I don't know about my sisters but in the 19 years that we have had this book I have used it to death. In fact- this is my second copy. The first one, which was used from the time I recieved it until after we left Massachusetts was marked with notes and spatters of different things we had made over the years. When we were packing up our life to move it to this new adventure my son, Joshua, asked me for the cookbook. I couldn't let it go. He hid it several times hoping I wouldn't find it, but I always did. After we got out here, I told my mom about the battle over her cookbook and she gave me a new copy. I added a note to Josh and sent him the original for our first Christmas apart in his life. He tells me that he actually cried when he received it and it warms my heart to know that I have given him a part of his family that he has never met. 

     When I open the pages, even knowing the exact recipe that I want, I can't help but page through looking for tidbits about my family members.  I see the different recipes and notes I can't help but feel a connection to the women that came before me.  Many of them, including my very beloved Granny, are gone now but when I stand at the stove frying chicken the way she did or making my husband's favorite German Potato Salad that was from my Granny's recipe I can hear her voice in my head talking me through it and I can feel the love that we shared surrounding me. 

      I have thanked her several times for The Cookbook but I don't know that my mother will ever know the depth of my gratitude for the gift that she has given me.  I have to include my dad here.  As my mom said in a postscript in her introduction, Dad missed many meals and spent many hours at the copy machine helping her to put this together for us.  I can vividly picture the two of them working together to make this happen.  I appreciate all of the time, the hard work and the love that went into this cookbook and  only hope that when Josh uses it over the years, he can feel it as well.