Friday, July 31, 2009

Forty-Two Way in Forty-Two Days Hobbies and hope

I have a confession to make. I am not very artistic. There, I said it. Even though I can barely draw a stick figure and every photo I try to take is just plain bad, I love the arts. Over the years I have dabbled in all sorts of crafty-type hobbies. I have tried counted cross-stitch, crocheting, soap and candle making, quilting, no-sew blankets and pillow quilts. All of those things have in common that they all have specific directions and patterns or molds and if you follow the directions, you can create something beautiful and lasting. I enjoy that. I enjoy creating something with my hands and sharing it with my loved ones. It makes me feel like I have shared a piece of myself because I make each thing with love.
It was a consistent, every single day, stiffness and aching in my hands and my wrists that led to my diagnosis with Rheumatoid Arthritis. In the year prior I had what I now know were flares in my thumbs, wrists, ankles and shoulders that we assumed were tendonitis or bursitis and treated as such. From the time that I received my diagnosis and we started to pursue treatment most of those things I mentioned above fell to the wayside for several reasons. At first it was because it was so overwhelming to deal with the diagnosis and all of the treatment options. Then of course there was the whole self pity phase where I felt like I was losing everything to this disease and the anger that my body had turned traitor and taken away things that I really enjoyed. As many of my fellow “spoonies” know- the pain can make you feel like that. Even after we got the pain under control and my mindset turned around there was still something holding me back. That was fear. Fear of causing myself more pain, fear of setting off a flare, and even more- fear of not being able to complete whatever project I started.

In the past six months I have made some strides in reclaiming my crafts. For those of us who enjoy yarn work (knitting, crocheting, and tatting) there is a neat device out there called the Knifty Knitter. These look like looms and take the place of having to hold and manipulate the yarn with your hands. You wind the yarn and use a hook to actually move the yarn off the loom and make your stitches. The first time I started making progress on a scarf on this thing I wanted to shout from the rooftops! I was never advanced enough to make anything more than scarves, lap blankets or afghans anyway so this was just perfect for me. My yarn has come out of storage and is back in use! Also recently, I discovered jewelry-making. I bought a kit and sat down with my mom this weekend and in just a few hours had put together a lovely glass and cloisonné necklace, bracelet and earrings for a friend’s upcoming birthday. Mom had this neat little tray made for this purpose that has measurements all around it and I was able to lay the beads out on the tray in the “pattern” that I wanted to make and then “scoop “ them up with the wire rather than having to try and hold the little beads with my fingers. When I finished, oh- I was so very proud. I felt like I had really accomplished something special. My Knifty Knitter takes a while to work and to complete so to be able to see an end product in just a couple of hours was so special.

What this means for me is that there is hope! I am okay with not picking up my needles and threads again for my cross-stitch (it is just too small to manipulate with these hands) but there are still possibilities out there. I may even be able to finish off a few of those no-sew (it involves tying many knots) blankets and bigger knitting projects as long as I give myself several months to complete them. In the meantime, I am throwing myself into jewelry until I run out of people to share them with. I am reclaiming my hobbies and will be on the look out for more (I still hate this word) disability friendly ways to express my creativity. If you know of any- please send suggestions my way!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Having a Diagnosis

Anyone who is ill- and especially those of us with chronic illnesses- know that waiting for a diagnosis can be as excruciating as our symptoms. It has been over four years since my diagnosis with Rheumatoid Arthritis and it has been several months since we started looking at Fibromyalgia as well. I am not too concerned with this one. It would explain the spasms in my back whenever my hips pop and in my neck and shoulders but I am resigned to the pain and I will NOT take Lyrica so it's more of just a knowing that I am looking for.

Several weeks ago- my husband broke out in hives. Not just a little case- he was miserable. His whole trunk and the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet were covered and he was a hot mess. He went to the urgent care and they gave him a shot of prednisone and it made a huge difference. A week later he had another bout and they gave him a dose pack. Within days of ending the dose pack- they were back again. This time they did a blood panel and sent him home with an antihistimine and Benadryl cream. Our biggest concern was that he had become allergic to something very common like nuts or wheat. Instead, the call that we got was that it was autoimmune in nature- but of course they wouldn't tell him exactly what over the phone and scheduled an appointment for yesterday (three weeks later). The last three week have been a bit of a rollercoaster. Fortunately we have the internet to search and found possibilities before we ever went. I went with him to his appointment as I have been through this before and we found that he has a mild form of Lupus.

We were prepared for this. We have questions, of course, but at the moment we will research and wait. Our next step is another blood panel and then probably an appointment with my Rheumatologist. At this point they are not going with a regular treatment- just the benadryl and a round of steroids when needed. They don't want to start him on meds until he becomes symptomatic on a regular basis.

It is such a relief to have a diagnosis. It is like a weight lifted off our shoulders. We know what we are fighting and what to watch for. I am so thankful that we have gotten to the bottom of this and now we can start the process of dealing with it. I am also grateful that we found out this quickly rather than going around and around with potential allergies before the docs started looking in this direction. I am grateful that we can fight this together.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- My Country

I had an entire post planned out about how wonderful it is to live in these United States. It is terrific for me to be a part of this country but something that just happened to make me rethink this post. I had taped and just watched an HBO Documentary called “Prom Night in Mississippi”. If you have never heard of this film, the premise is very basic. In 2008, the town of Charleston, Mississippi held its first (in many, many years) integrated prom. They did this because actor, activist and philanthropist Morgan Freeman went to the senior class and offered to pay for their prom if they chose to integrate rather than continuing with a separate “black prom” and “white prom”. The mere fact that in this day and age such a challenge was necessary intrigued me so much that I taped the show.
To be quiet honest, I was floored through the majority of it. I cannot fathom living in a town where racism is still so rampant that in this century they are still holding separate proms. I was even more taken back by the fact that after the students quickly took him up on the offer- quite a few of the white parents refused to allow their children to attend.

Watching this film tore me in two distinct directions. I was so very proud of the large majority of these kids. Despite having grown up with this abject hatred drilled into them at home- they are breaking the cycle. I was also horribly ashamed that those parents and the children who either agreed with their parents or were not willing to take a stand could potentially represent me as a Caucasian American. It sickens me that there are pockets of America that haven’t moved beyond the pre-civil rights era in the last 40 years. I just don’t understand how this can still be going on in this country.

These things I do know:

I am so very grateful to have been raised to see what is inside a person- not what color or nationality they are.

I am so very grateful to have never experienced blatant racism like this in my own life.

I am grateful that Mr. Freeman made the offer and these kids took it in an effort to break this barrier.

I am hopeful that those children will take that lesson and run with it rather than following in their family’s segregated footsteps.

I am eternally grateful to not live in the midst of such a mindset or to have raised my child in that environment.

I am hopeful that before the end of my life we can eradicate racism and hate all across the country.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- A New Day

Yesterday was a rough day. I have been having a tough time at work and have been holding it inside and yesterday I finally released my frustrations. Afterwards- I felt a little silly but much better for having said my say.

Today is a new day. What I realized this morning while Harley and I were out walking in the dark is that each and every day that we wake up-it's like our own personal mulligan. We get a do-over. If yesterday was a crappy day- today we get to start over and make it a good day. All we have to do is let it go and start from a positive place. We may not be able to do anything about the pain, we may not be able to do anything about other people, but we can do something about our own outlook and attitude.

What a gift we are given each day! We have the opportunity to put the past where it belongs on the shelf where all of our lessons live and to move forward. We can take them down and dust them off when we need to reflect on what we have learned and then put them back in storage till we need them again. We are given the opportunity to start our day from a positive place and keep it going for the next day and the next.
We can decide that today will be a good day- no matter what the day brings. We can take our setbacks, our disappointments and our problems and face them head on as challenges to be overcome rather than letting those challenges take over our lives and make us miserable.

I am so thankful for my new day. I am grateful for the opportunity to take my mulligan and start the day with a smile. It's such a better place to begin.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Productivity

It has been a good morning. By 6, I had taken Miss Dog for her walk, prepped and started a beef stew for dinner and cut my fruit for lunch and was dressed and ready for work. I feel like I have accomplished a lot today and the day hasn't even started yet. The amazing thing is- both of my ankles look like balloons, my hands are swollen and yet the only pain I am feeling is in my back. I braced up my right ankle last night because it was the more swollen of the two and it is not so sore this morning.

There are two things that you learn very quickly about living with RA. The first is that every day- even every hour- is a crapshoot. I could feel great today and then be in mass amounts of pain tomorrow. I could be having a great day and my hip pops and instantly my back goes into spasm. You just never know. That leads to the second thing that you learn- taking advantage of the good times.

When I am feeling good- I become as productive as I possibly can. I precook meals, I get some housework done, I get as much as possible done at work to get ahead. Those times allow me to reaffirm that I am LIVING with this *stupid* disease not suffering from it. I need these times to balance out the bad days. Thankfully- I still have more good days than bad and so the scales lean heavily toward the good days. Being productive makes me feel vital and useful and "normal". I am so grateful to have so many of those days and even when the ratio starts to tip in the other direction- I can still hang on to those days and keep that in the forefront of my mind.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- Abundance

I went to church today with Mom, my sister and her kiddos. I should probably tell you that though I have deep spiritual beliefs- they don't follow any specific path so I am not a regular church-goer. I should also mention that after retiring from the military- my father studied and became a UCC pastor. But I digress....

Dad's sermon today was about Abundance and how with God- we would always have plenty He specifically referenced John 6:1-15 and discussed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes and he talked about the abundance of food for the body as opposed to food for the soul. That got me thinking about my own adult life.

There have most certainly been some very lean times for us. We have had to, at times, pay one bill over another and stretch our budgets to the limits. We have had to prioritize and put things on the back burner many, many times. Looking at the numbers on a spreadsheet- many would consider us the "poor" part of the family. I confess that I have felt that way a time or twelve. In retrospect- we have always had plenty. We have always made do or made it work. We have had food on the table, and warm clothes. We have kept a roof over our head even if barely. Somehow- it always worked out. We have always had people in our corner- family, friends and one another that enveloped us in love. Never once have they made us feel like less- if we did it was our own doing.

What this means that- in a way- my father's sermon rang very true today. We have always had plenty. Maybe not a LOT- but definately enough. I am thankful for that- and that today's sermon served as a reminder that you don't have to be rich to have an abundance.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- Diverse Parenting

Spending the last two weekends with two different sets of neices and nephews has been a lot of fun and very,very interesting. My sisters and I have been seperated by geography our entire adult lives. When we are fortunate- we get to see one another once a year. Our lives have taken extremely different paths and as such our children range in age from 7 to 22. In fact- my son is 9 years older than the next closest one to him.

What struck me most over the last few weekends is how completely differently we all parent. We all have the same goal in the end- to raise happy, successful and well adjusted children- but the paths that we take to get there are very, very different. I could go on for days and bore you to tears with our different choices and priorites for our kids- but I will spare you that. ;-)

I am thankful today that so far we are all moving toward that goal and the kids are all sweet, loving, smart young people. I am also grateful that despite how each of us parents- every adult in my family is more than willing to respect the parent's judgement and keeps the kids to their own parent's "rules" rather than disregard them and impose our own. It is out of love and respect for one another that we do that and it is what keeps us so close.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- Healthy kids

When we are becoming parents, our one wish is that we have happy, healthy children and that no harm comes to them. In my family we have been so very, very fortunate that we are 7 for 7 with healthy kiddos. The biggest health issue we have had to face has been asthma which was outgrown.

Imagine if your child were living with pain every single day of their lives. This pain can be controlled but not eradicated. There is no way to prevent it and no cure- only hope to keep the progression to a minimum and the child in as little pain as possible. Can you imagine how you would feel? I cannot.

July is National Juvenile Arthritis Month. Facts from the Arthritis Foundation:

Juvenile Arthritis Fact Sheet
Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in
children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age.
Impact of Juvenile Arthritis:
• Approximately 294,000 children under the age of 18 are affected by pediatric arthritis and
rheumatologic conditions.
[Sacks, J., Helmick, C., Yao-Hua L., Ilowite N., & Bowyer S. (2007). Prevalence of and Annual ambulatory Health Care
Visits for Pediatric Arthritis and Other Rheumatologic Conditions in the US in 2001-2004. Arthritis Rheum, vol. 57, 1439-
• State prevalence numbers for pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions are
available in the “Prevalence of and Annual Ambulatory Health Care Visits for Pediatric
Arthritis and Other Rheumatologic Conditions in the US in 2001-2004”.
[Sacks, J., Helmick, C., Yao-Hua L., Ilowite N., & Bowyer S. (2007). Prevalence of and Annual ambulatory Health Care
Visits for Pediatric Arthritis and Other Rheumatologic Conditions in the US in 2001-2004. Arthritis Rheum, vol. 57, 1439-
• Ambulatory care visits for pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions averaged
827,000 annually.
[Sacks, J., Helmick, C., Yao-Hua L., Ilowite N., & Bowyer S. (2007). Prevalence of and Annual ambulatory Health Care
Visits for Pediatric Arthritis and Other Rheumatologic Conditions in the US in 2001-2004. Arthritis Rheum, vol. 57, 1439-
• Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States.
[Lawrence, R. C., Helmick, C. G., Arnett, F. C., Deyo, R. A., Felson, David T., Giannini, E. H., Heyse, S. P., Hirsch, R., Hochberg, Marc C., Hunder,
G. G., Liang, M. H., Pillemer, S. R., Steen, V. D., and Wolfe, F. Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Selected Musculoskeletal Disorders in
the United States. Arthritis & Rheumatism 41(5), 778-799. 1998].
• Arthritis and related conditions, such as juvenile arthritis, cost the U.S. economy nearly
$128 billion per year in medical care and indirect expenses, including lost wages and
[MMWR 2007;56(01):4-7. [Data Source: 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey]
Common Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis:
• Pain, swelling, tenderness and stiffness of joints, causing limited range of motion
• Joint contracture, which results from holding a painful joint in a flexed position for an
extended period
• Damage to joint cartilage and bone leading to joint deformity and impaired use of the joint
• Altered growth of bone and joints leading to short stature
Types of Juvenile Arthritis:
• Polyarticular JA affects five or more joints and:
o affects girls more frequently than boys
o most commonly affects knees, wrists and ankles
o can affect weight-bearing and other joints, including hips, neck, shoulders and
o often affects the same joint on both sides of the body
• Pauciarticular JA affects four or fewer joints and:
o usually affects the large joints: knees, ankles or wrists
o often affects a joint on one side of the body only, particularly the knee
o may cause eye inflammation (uveitis) which is seen most frequently in young
girls with positive anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA)
• Systemic Onset JA can:
o affect boys and girls equally
o cause high, spiking fevers of 103 degrees or higher, lasting for weeks or even
o cause a rash consisting of pale, red spots on the child’s chest, thighs and
sometimes other parts of the body
o cause arthritis in the small joints of the hands, wrists, knees and ankles
Other Types of Juvenile Arthritis:
• Juvenile Spondyloarthropies (ankylosing spondylitis, seronegative enthesopathy and
arthropathy syndrome) are a group of diseases that involve the spine and joints of the
lower extremities, most commonly the hips and knees.
• Juvenile Psoriatic Arthritis is a type of arthritis affecting both girls and boys that occurs in
association with the skin condition psoriasis.
• Juvenile Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and
a characteristic skin rash on the eyelids.
• Juvenile Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune disease associated with skin
rashes, arthritis, pleurisy, kidney disease and neurologic movement.
• Juvenile Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels and can be both a primary
childhood disease and a feature of other syndromes, including dermatomyositis and
systemic lupus erythematosus.
Causes of Juvenile Arthritis:
• The cause of most forms of juvenile arthritis is unknown, but it is not contagious and
there is no evidence that foods, toxins, allergies or vitamin deficiencies play a role.
Diagnosis of Juvenile Arthritis:
• A diagnosis of juvenile arthritis is based on a complete medical history and careful
medical examination. Evaluation by a specialist – either a pediatric rheumatologist or a
rheumatologist – is often required.
• Laboratory studies including blood and urine tests are often needed to assist in a
diagnosis of JA.
• Imaging studies including X-rays or magnetic resonance images may be needed to check
for signs of joint or organ involvement in JA.
Management of Juvenile Arthritis:
• Management varies depending on the specific form of juvenile arthritis.
• Care by a pediatric rheumatologist is important for most forms of JA.
• The primary goals of treatment for juvenile arthritis are to control inflammation, relieve
pain, prevent joint damage and maximize functional abilities.
• Treatment plans for children usually include medication, physical activity, physical and/or
occupational therapy, education, eye care, dental care and proper nutrition.
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first line of medication used in
juvenile arthritis to help control pain and inflammation.
• Corticosteroids such as prednisone can be taken orally to relieve inflammation or injected
into joints that are inflamed.
• Biologic Response Modifiers (BRMs), such as anti-TNF drugs, are a class of drugs that
inhibit proteins called cytokines. They must be injected under the skin or given as an
infusion in the vein.
• Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs such as methotrexate are often used in
conjunction with NSAIDs to treat joint inflammation and reduce the risk of bone and
cartilage damage.
How does the Arthritis Foundation help?
The Arthritis Foundation supports research, health education and government advocacy efforts to
improve the lives of the nearly 46 million Americans with arthritis, one of the nation’s most
common causes of disability. These services include:
• Number-one ranked comprehensive arthritis website,
• Toll-free information phone line: 1-800-283-7800
• Nearly 100 consumer educational brochures, booklets and books
• Arthritis Today, the Arthritis Foundation’s bi-monthly consumer magazine reaching 3.8
million readers per issue
• Water- and land-based exercise classes, self-help courses and support groups
• Local chapter offices nationwide
• Physician referral lists
• Extensive funding of arthritis research grants at institutions nationwide
• Federal and state advocacy efforts to ensure rights and access to care for all people with
For a free brochure about juvenile arthritis or to locate the nearest Arthritis Foundation chapter,
call the Arthritis Foundation toll-free at 1-800-283-7800 or visit its website at
Or, write to: Arthritis Foundation, P. O. Box 7669, Atlanta, GA 30357-0669.
The Arthritis Foundation is the only nationwide, nonprofit health organization helping people take
greater control of arthritis.
The mission of the Arthritis Foundation is to improve lives through leadership in the prevention,
control and cure of arthritis and related diseases.
© 2008 Arthritis Foundation. All rights reserved.

What I ask of you today is to take a moment to give thanks for the healthy children in your life and then check out the Arthritis Foundation's website at and learn a little more about these debilatating diseases that affect so very many children.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- Food on the table.

There can be something very satisfying about cooking a meal, especially when you prepare that meal for the ones you love. Taking beautiful,fresh ingredients and transforming them into something that delights the senses- whether you are following a recipe or just making it up as you go along- can bring joy to both the cook and those that benefit from you labor. On the flip side of that, taking inexpensive staples when you are trying to stretch your budget and turning them into something new and exciting can be just as fulfilling.

For far too many in this world, cooking is not so much a joy but another stressor and a meal on the table is a luxury. Even in our own abundant country- there are children who go to bed hungry or parents who give up eating so that their children can. These are tough economic times and more people than ever are feeling the pinch.
Thankfully, there are places out there that can help. There is a wonderful website: Feeding America that can provide information about local food banks, food drives and other ways to help in your community. From volunteering your time, to donating funds, to hosting a food drive or filling some of their "most needed items" requests, every little bit helps when it comes to making sure that our neighbors have a meal today. Personally- I am adding some of those "always needed" items (for example protein items like tuna and peanut butter) to my list so that I will be ready to donate at our next food drive.

So tonight, when I am enjoying a meal with my family, I will give an extra thanks for the food that I have and that I have the ability to help, if only a little.

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- Our men and women of the Military

I am very proud to have been a military brat. We have quite the military history right in my own family. Both my dad and Jim's devoted over thirty years of their lives to military service. Jim did two years and my baby sister did four. The grandfathers also served their country. At this moment I have two very dear friends serving overseas, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I know firsthand what sacrifices our men and women make when they commit to Uncle Sam.

For most of the last decade we have been involved in the war on terrorism. During that time our soldiers have spent months and sometimes years away from their families and homes. They have traded nightly hugs and kisses for occasional phone and video calls. They trade their warm homes and beds for dorm style living in the desert. They trade home cooked meals for chow halls and MRE's. They trade the sounds of the familiar for the boom of mortar fire or the blaring music from the mosques. They don't do it for glory, they don't do it for fame. They do it for us. To protect us, to keep us secure. And while they are gone- their families are back here, keeping things going in their absence.

Whether you agree with our presence in the foreign countries or not, our women and men are over there keeping you and I safe. They don't choose to go- they go because they have to. When they enlist in the military- they take the following oath:

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Each and every night I give thanks for the men and women who defend and protect our country, whether they are overseas or at home. Whether they acknowledge it or not- they truely are heros.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Forty-Two Ways in Forty-Two Days- The Ability to Forgive

Noun 1. forgiveness - compassionate feelings that support a willingness to forgive
mercifulness, mercy - the feeling that motivates compassion
2. forgiveness - the act of excusing a mistake or offense
benignity, kindness - a kind act
condonation - a pardon by treating the offender as if the offense had not occurred
exculpation - the act of freeing from guilt or blame

I have been thinking alot about forgiveness lately. The two definitions above are very cut and dried but the act of forgiveness is so much more than that. When we are hurt by someone that we care about, especially by someone for whom we care deeply, it is like an wound to our hearts. Left alone, a wound like that can fester until it affects every area of our lives. It breeds anger, resentment and spills over into our other relationships. It can exacerbate health issues and affect our work. Really- who wants to live like that?

The act of forgiveness really has nothing to do with the offender. In forgiving, you don't have to forget the wrong that has been done with you. You don't have to repair the relationship, indeed you don't even have to ever speak to the other person again if you so choose. Forgiveness, for me, is all about finding it in my heart to let go of the anger and moving past it. It is about taking back the power from the offender and channeling the energy I have been expending being angry in a more positive manner. In forgiving, you are ridding yourself of the bitterness and embracing hope and joy and that is a much better alternative overall.

I have to ask myself- which life do I want? Do I want to hold onto a grudge and let the bitterness color the rest of my life or do I want to free myself from those things and let myself be at peace? Obviously- peace is what I am striving for.

So- as with all of the works-in-progress I have in my life, I am working toward forgiveness. I am starting with the small stuff and working toward the larger ones. What I am finding is that by working my way up- I can see the progress and it gives me the confidence to keep going. Each time I forgive, I feel better- and that is a great thing! I don't necessarily even tell the person that they are forgiven- I just think about it and then I let it go- and I feel that small hold on my heart release. It has not always been easy- but the more I forgive- the more thankful I am to have found this ability.

Sidney and Suzanne Simon:
Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Two Special Blogs

There are two blogs that I go to on a daily basis.

The first is RA_Guy RA Guy, as he is known on Facebook, Twitter and the Arthritis boards, is a fellow survivor. He takes this disease with humor and grace. He educates, he amuses, and he advocates. I enjoy waiting each morning for his posts to come up and see what the topic of the day is going to be. Those of us living with RA can relate completely to his struggles, but for someone who is living with someone with RA- he explains things in a way that everyone can understand. He opens the door for a dialogue with the patient in your life and tells you things we wish we could share as eloquently. If you read nothing else on his blog- you must read his 60-Second Guide to RA. I have shared it with everyone in my life and it has helped them understand. He just gets it and is able to share it.

The second blog I visit every single day is Zen_Habits
Brought to us by Leo Babauta, Zen Habits is all about Simple Productivity. Every post, whether written by Leo or by a guest blogger, shows you how to raise your productivity level while lowering the amount of stress in your life. Each time you read Zen Habits, you find that one point in the blog that is an "oh yeah!" moment and on a regular basis I find something that I forward to my office e-mail to re-read when the frustration level rises. There are just so many things to learn from Zen Habits and I have shared this particular blog with the people in my life who are in high stress or high competition fields as well as folks who just need to find that calm and peaceful place.

I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do and feel free to share them with the people that you love as well. I send my gratitude to these two authors who have made such a difference in my life.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Home

As I mentioned, I was gone to Mom and Dad's all weekend and I will go again on Wednesday. Right now, I am sitting in my "office" section of my dining room area in my own house. Fortunately- when I go to my parent's house, I am as comfortable as I am right now. I don't feel like I am visiting. I feel just like I am at home. I know that by having two places that I can call home- I am doubly fortunate. I cannot imagine what it must be like not to have that. Above and beyond the shelter, there is the safety and security of a place of your own. A place where you can kick up your feet and really relax. A place where you can take off your makeup and toss on your pajamas (everyone who knows me knows how much stock I put in Jammie-time) and just be yourself. Most importantly- my homes are a place where no matter how rotten I am feeling, how hard my flare is hurting me, no matter how tired I am due to meds or to the CFS- there is enough love and understanding in my homes to make it all bareable.

This quote embodies what home means for me- and how I try to live my life:

" No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.


And that is something I will always be grateful for.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Forty-two Ways- Forty Two Days- finding peace in ordinary things

**I have been at my parent's home since Thursday afternoon, which is why I missed yesterday's blog. There are several computers in the house, but I have spent my time talking and laughing with my sister who is in town and will repeat the pattern next Thursday and Friday with the other sister.Which means that unless I pre-write during the coming week- I may miss a day or two.**

It is amazing to me what things can trigger peace. When I lived in MA and we would drive back here to visit my grandmother the closer we got the more the tension would fall away. As the number of cornfields increased, the number of my muscles that would relax accordingly. I don't know what it is about cornfields that does it for me. Over the years I have theorized that it could be the perfectly straight rows that went on seemingly forever, it could be that watching the changes in them signifies a steadiness to me, and it could just mean that it meant we were just that much farther away from the city and our day to day lives. Even having lived out here for over two years now- there is something about watching that corn pop up that does it for me.

At my own home, I delight in sitting outside behind my house on the patio in the morning and just listening to the world come alive while I sip my coffee and start my day. One of the only things I miss about our townhouse in Madison is the beautiful deck that looked out on the perimieter of Clifty State Forest and provided us with deer, rabbits, racoons and squirrels who would venture into our yard as the day dawn or dimmed. I was able to watch them frolic and play or even stop for a moment and relax themselves before going on about their business as long as I was still.

Another thing that I love is my mother's back yard. She and dad have spent countless hours out there setting up bird feeders and batsh, planting flowers and shrubs, produce and herbs that from the beginning of spring until the end of fall each time you step out into the yard there is something beautiful too see and smell and it aways- even day to day- looks different. I love to step outside the sun porch and just inhale the scents before I go and sit in a chair or on a bench and listen to the birds chirping. There is such a feeling of calm and relaxation that comes over me out there that I have found myself thinking "this is what I want my life to be."

Now- my parents yard is not one of those "picture perfect, row by row, precisely measured planting show place gardens. In fact, Harley's favorite spot is the lily bed which is a veritable jungle for a dog with four inch legs. Rather, my parents gardens are planted with love. Love of the different flowers, love of the heady scents, love of the cycle which keeps something blooming most of the year and a shared love of doing the planting and enjoying the fruits of their labor. When you spend any time there, you can feel the love with which it was planted and that lends to the peace that steals over you.

Their trees- two very, very large tulip trees- have become a haven for the birds and the squirrels- until Miss Harley comes along to shoo those squirrels out of the yard. What is very "Mom and Dad" about these trees are the very cute "tree faces" that adorn those trees. It just adds to the personality of the yard and the whimsy of the gardens.

There is just something about being out there, surrounded by nature- be it my beloved corn fields or in my parents yard or my own patio that just takes me to a very special place. I am grateful for all that Mother Nature gives us that allows me to find that place in my soul.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Road Tripping

This morning I am finishing packing last minute things, heading to work for a few hours before stopping home, picking up Harley and hitting 64 to Mom and Dad's to spend a couple of days with my parents, sister and her children. I will drive home on Saturday after they leave to travel back to North Carolina to give my parents a few days of quiet. Next week, I will be meeting my other sister and her children at the airport and following them to Mom and Dad's house for a few days. I cannot tell you what a luxury this is to me. For so very many years we were not in driving distance to one another. Well- we *could* but it would mean being on the road for ten to twelve hours plus per leg and that would not a weekend make.

Now that Mom and Dad are stationary- Dad just retired from the military in 2001- it is much easier for us to come together and be able to visit. Having moved out here, just a hundred miles from them- if I needed to I could make it a day trip. The girls,on the other hand, have to deal with school, activity, work and airline schedules but this is the third summer we have been able to have time with one another.

In April, when Jim's mom passed away, we were able to pack the car and just go. It was over 16 hours with stops, but we made it back with no major problems. I paid for it physically with severe pain in my hips and back after all was said and done, but with better planning of my tramadol, I know we could do it again.

One thing that Jim and I have never taken for granted is our ability to do a road trip and still enjoy one another. I know many people for whom a road trip is so very stressful that they end up fighting and just not liking one another before it is over. It has never been that way with us. He prefers to drive, I have no problem with letting him. He has no problem with asking me to take the wheel when he is tired and I enjoy the break from being the navigator. Neither of us minds making pit stops and we almost always overestimate our time so that we don't feel pressured to get there too quickly. Even Harley is a good passenger and even better since we discovered that she can take a little bromine (a type of dramamine) and still function once we get to our destination. It doesn't knock her out but keeps her tummy settled which keeps her appetite there. Even better is that we enjoy just getting out and exploring. We both find it fun to just get in the car and go someplace new. We have spent a number of Sundays just driving through the area trying new streets and seeing where it takes us.

I am so grateful that we have the ability and the tolerance to just get in the car and travel. Whether it is the hour and half journey to see my folks for the weekend or just driving around Louisville for a few hours or a long road trip back to MA- it is one of the joys in my life that RA has yet to take away from me. Who knows- some day we may be that little old couple in the RV that takes off and drives across country for the fun of it.

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Harry Potter

I started this blog yesterday- but quite honestly I was just too darned tired for it to make sense. The pure number of typos was enough for me to hold off on publishing it until I could put together a full sentence. Night before last, my honey and I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Except for the first film, we have done midnight premieres of all of the films. These films, most of which are closing in on three hours, are incredible. If you are a fan of the books- which I am- the movies can leave you torn. JK Rowling's books are so rich and so full of over and underlying characters that weave themselves in and out of the story that many of us re-read the predicessors each time a new book came out in order to reacquaint ourselves with them before we moved on in the story. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, my Mom, my friends and I consumed it like it was both our first and our last meal. The first inclination was to dive in and just gobble it up. Then we realized it was the very last book so we slowed down to savor every last word. The story, from the Sorcerer's Stone through the Deathly Hallows spans years of young Harry's life seamlessly.

The movies- as with most book to film adaptations lose quite a bit of the story in the translation. Of course- beginning with the third book- the books were over three hundred pages and larger with each successive story. By the end, if they were to film every word we would be looking at at least an eight hour film. Even so, those of us who are loyal to the books find the parts cut out to be difficult to swallow. So why do we love the films so very much? It is all in the visuals.

When you see the characters brought to life it changes how you view the books. You can see the children who portray the characters- Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and even Tom Felton as Harry, Ron, Herminone and Draco. Having watched them grow up with their characters adds something special to the re-reading. However- it is the film adaptation of Hogwarts Castle that is just magical- no pun intended. The films just bring the castle to life. The interactive paintings, the moving staircases, the disappearing and reappearing room of requirement just pop off the screen. After having seen the movies for the story the first time, I would recommend watching them again and again just to see the background of the castle. There is alway something new to see.

So where is my gratitude in all of this? Well, it is two-fold. First there are the many, many hours of escape that I have found in both the books and the movies. Whether you have seen or read them before, each time you revisit them you drop back into the wizarding world as if it were new.

Second is the fact that I was able to go to that midnight show and be not so much worse for the wear. I took a quick nap before the movie and a quick nap after. I worked all day yesterday and even stayed late to finish a project and I didn't fall apart. I didn't have any more pain than usual for having sat in those seats for over three hours. I actually felt...almost normal. Granted, it was my new normal- but it gave me back another piece of my "old" life that I thought was gone. I was afraid of what physical consequences I would suffer for the lack of sleep and lack of moving around- and that fear is gone. I came home yesterday, threw a Lean Cuisine in the nuker and then went to bed around 7:30- a little later even than my usual Humira day. Just thinking about how well I did puts a smile on my face even now. And for that I am SO grateful!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Books

Since I was a little girl, my parents have instilled a love of reading in me. When we were little, mom always had books around and for many years, Dad was going to school so those books were around as well. He was also a HUGE Stephen King fan-and still has every hardcover. Both of them read to us until we were old enough to read to them and then for ourselves. Three very vivid memories of my childhood are about books. First was back in school when we had those SRA reading programs (yes, I am dating myself) where we would select a book and then read it and do a little quiz and move on to the next book and work through the series. The second was when my parents gave me the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew series and the third was the first time I read the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe.

A good book or story can draw you in and take you places you have never been. It can pique your curiosity about things you have never seen or known- and if you are like me that can lead to researching all sorts of topics so you can continually learn about the world around you. At one time I dreamed that I would be a writer, but I realized a long time ago that I have neither the talent or the discipline to do so. I am okay with that- but that dream evolved in another direction. Now- the dream is to proofread and edit professionally. I can imagine nothing better than being paid to read and to make a story better.

In the meantime- I work surrounded by books. I have at my fingertips on any given day over a thousand titles. Walking the shelves, flipping through the pages, seeing all the interesting and exciting things that are out there to see and do, it is worth all of the work involved just having access to all of that.

I am so thankful for the ability to read. I cannot imagine what is it like to not be able see the words on the page and know what they mean. I can't imagine not being able to pick up a book and open the pages and forget about all of my worries for just a few hours.

I am also very grateful that my parents enjoyed reading so much that they passed that love on to me and that I was able to share that with Josh.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Friends.

I can't watch this video without tears. I don't know why- but it always just gets me and makes my heart swell. Perhaps because I have been blessed with some of the most wonderful friends in the world.

I have all different kinds of friends. I have friends that I met in high school and recently reconnected with, some that have been in my life all of those years and friends that I made as an adult. I have friends that I "met" in online (thank you msn) groups, and friends that I met through my RA boards. I have very dear friends that I may not speak to more than three times a year- but when we get together it is as if we were together just yesterday, friends that I speak to almost daily in some way or another and friends that I don't get to speak to often enough. My friends have been with me through thick and thin, good and bad. I have friends that I have never seen in person that know more about me than people I see every day.

The ironic thing is, though I am fairly outgoing, I don't make true friends easily. I place a lot of stock in honesty, loyalty and respect and for me to give those things, it takes a large amount of trust on my part. As a military brat, I grew up knowing that people can come and go in your life at any time. Because of that- it takes a lot for me to let down my guard enough to really invest myself and call someone a friend. Knowing this- I had always considered that I have a lot of acquaintences and a few real friends. When I was preparing this blog- I started counting and was surprised at the number of people that I do consider friends. If I was feeling blessed before- I am feeling abundantly blessed now!

I love my friends like a surrogate family. They touch my life in a million different ways. They mean the world to me and I try to make them aware of it as often as I can without being too mushy. I really feel that this song sums up exactly how I feel about my friends- new and old. If you are my friend- thank you for being my friend and this is for you!

Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow.
But if we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow.
Lean on me, when you're not strong and I'll be your friend.
I'll help you carry on, for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna need somebody
to lean on.
Please swallow your pride, if have things you need to borrow.
For no one can fill those needs that you won't let show.
You just call on me brother when you need a hand.
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you'll understand.
We all need somebody to lean on.
Lean on me when you't not strong, and I'll be your friend.
I'll help you carry on, for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need
somebody to lean on.
You just call on me brother if you need a friend.
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you'll understand.
We all need somebody to lean on.
If there is a load you have to bear that you can't carry.
I'm right up the road, I'll share your load if you just call me.
Call me ( if you need a friend)
Call me

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- More Family.

When you get married, if you are lucky, you gain a second family. I know that a lot of folks complain about their in-laws and some have some really BAD situations but I didn't have that problem.

Jim's parents have always been supportive- even when we got married so very young. They never treated me like anything other than a real daughter- not an "in-law". Heck, Jim's mom once told us that if anything happened and we split- she was keeping me instead of Jim.

When we made the decision to pursue a move out this way- I was afraid they would not be pleased- but they were really, really behind us. We had been with them for 20 years and they understood the need to be near my parents now that they are getting older. Jim has 3 siblings living with and near them so we all knew that there would be someone to care for them. Little did we know how quickly that would be put to the test. When Jim's mom got sick last year, we were so thankful that the kids all stepped in and took such good care of her. We were thankful that they tried to keep us in the loop. We are also very grateful that we both got the opportunity to go back and see her while she was still alive and knew us. Mom passed away in April and we both really still miss her. We went back for the funeral and it was not a good thing. True colors come out in times like that and when we left- we were glad to come back home. I am not going to get into all of that mess in this blog because this is about gratitude and that is an area where I am still working on forgiveness so I will leave it at that. Since then, contact with Dad has been minimal. He is having a really tough time without Mom so I am not taking it personally. I just hope and pray that he is taking care of himself. I really feel the best thing for him would be to consider assisted living but I don't think that will come for a while.
I just don't think he is ready to take that step. But I email him and send cards and let him know that we love him and that is all that I can do.

I am also very thankful for Jim's sister Courtney, his brother Andrew and Drew's wife Jessica. They are our continued connection to Jim's family. We hear from them fairly often via Facebook and texts. We are able to see their children in those mediums and enjoy them growing up. We have been "family" since they were children so it is an easy relationship between us. I love them as if they were blood related and I hope they realize that. I would do anything I could to help them if they needed me. I can only hope that we continue on over the rest of our lives.

I miss them all. I am grateful that I have them in my life because they make a difference whether they realize it or not. I need to let them know, I just don't know how I will do that yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Forty Two Ways in Forty Two Days- Reminders

Sometimes, when things are just flowing along and you are living life day to day, you (okay-I) tend to just go with the flow. Though I spend my evening walks with Harley reviewing my day and thinking of all the things I am thankful for I get in a rut. I find myself coming up with the same things over and over and then wonder if it is just becoming routine and I am somehow missing the point of gratitude. I don't know about you, but sometimes I need a reminder to shake things up a bit and knock loose the cobwebs. Two things happened in the last two days to remind me how very fortunate I am and that I should not take the things I do have for granted. Maybe someone up there knew I was getting complacent and needed a jolt.

Yesterday morning at 4:45am Harley and I went out for our usual morning walk. Generally we head out of the apartment complex, across the street to Mom and Pops where Harley likes to explore the gazebos and benches then down the street to the park and back. It's pretty dark out there- we don't have a lot of street lights- so I bring a flashlight for poop patrol (one of the lesser delights of puppy adoption) and except for that we keep it off and just enjoy the solitude together. So we went our usual route and Harley did her business over between the east side gazebo and benches I was telling her to wait while I did my job. Right about that time a homeless man sat up on one of the benches. I don't know which of the three of us was more startled! We must have awoken him when I started talking to Harley and he sat straight up- startling the daylights out of her. I on the other hand was startled because in two years I have only seen one homeless person out here. I know they are here, but they are just not as pervasive as they were in the city. I spent the whole day thinking back to this poor man who not only had to sleep on a bench that night but also got scared to death by me and my little dog in the wee hours of the morning.

This morning-after our walk- I flipped on my DVR and an episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition had taped in the middle of the night. I have it set for "new only" but for whatever reason- this one didn't say "repeat" so even though it was an episode from 2005, it taped anyway. This two hour show was about the Anderson Family.

In March 2000, Rodney Anderson of South Central Los Angeles was on his way to the NBA and a degree in social work, thanks to a full basketball scholarship from California State University at Fullerton (CSUF). On a rare day off from practice, he came home to have dinner with his family. Afterwards, he went for a walk -- the last time he would do so. Gang members approached Rodney and shot him in the back, thinking he was a rival gang member, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, with little movement in his arms.

With assistance from the state of California and former assemblyman Carl Washington, a contractor was hired to begin work on the Anderson home to make it wheelchair-accessible for Rodney. But the contractor never returned to complete the job and left gaping holes where there should have been walls, leaving the house exposed to the elements and making it almost completely uninhabitable.

Rodney is an honor student at CSUF and attends classes and basketball games in a wheelchair. While Rodney and his fiancee Monique, along with his parents, sister Glenda and her three children, Mellone, 19, Louis, 16 and 12-year-old Cordney, went on vacation to the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, CSUF held a special campus event where Rodney's basketball number was retired.

I have to say- I watched this two hours with a lump in my throat and just cried and cried at different points. These folks really just touched my heart.

These two things together make me wonder what in the world I have to complain about. I have a safe home in a safe town. I have food on the table. I have a family that I love and who loves me. Yes I (and maybe now Jim but that's another story for another blog) have health issues but I am not in a wheelchair- and though we have thought about it a time or twelve I haven't even progressed to a cane as of yet. Yes, I have pain every day- but I am managing that pain and more importantly- I can feel that pain. It is kind of odd to feel good about being able being able to feel pain- but when you see someone who was so athletically talented (which I have NEVER been)and is now a quadraplegic- you have to give thanks that you can feel your pain.

Another part of this reminder is that we can find strength and resiliance when we really need it. I think I am pretty darned strong. I handle most everything thrown at me with only a brief stop for a tantrum and then go with it. When I think about the man in the park and the young man in the wheelchair I have to think that THAT is strength at a very high level. I can only hope that if I were to face that kind of adversity (and knock wood I never will) that I would have the fortitude to go on. I am so grateful for the life that I have. The little things and the big things that I have been given make my life pretty darned good and the adversity is just another challenge to be overcome.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- My sisters.

Growing up I was the oldest of three girls. My poor father had four women in the house and he was decidedly outnumbered. Being the oldest by a whopping three years I, of course, thought I knew it all. I was the trailblazer. I did most everything first. I was also the one my parents "learned" on. The way they handled me was not necessarily the way they handled my sisters. There was naturally some rivalry, and we didn't always get along. The thing about threes is that when you are fighting it is usually two against one. The funny thing is, in fifteen years, those two against one combinations change depending on the issue, the day, the argument and the way the wind blows. On the plus side- we moved around a LOT when we were kids being military brats. Having two sisters meant always having someone to talk to, always had someone to play with and had someone who knew what you were dealing with and was right there with you.

As adults, if you lined us up side by side, we are so very different. Our lifestyles are different, our temperaments are different and our interests are vastly different. Down deep we have the same values and the same priorities. Would we be friends if we just met on the street? I just don't know- but I do know we love one another dearly.

Heather and Lisa are both such wonderful people. They have big hearts and are both beautiful inside and out. They are raising wonderful kids, they contribute to their communities and they put their families first. Everyone should have people in their life that they truely love and admire the way I do them.

The hard part is that we live so very far apart. One on the west coast, one on the east and now me in the middle. The good thing is that since we moved out here we get more time together. The last two summers both of the girls have made it out and last summer and this summer they have been able to bring the kids. It is hard being so far apart and only seeing the kids grow up in pictures. Thankfully we all have Facebook, unlimited texting and other electronic ways to communicate. It was not as easy when Josh was growing up but I get to have instant photos of the kids. My hope is that we can get better about emailing on a regular basis and maybe get a round robin email going so we can all share our information without having to go through Mom and Dad to hear more about each other.

I am just thankful that I have them. I have some wonderful friends- but they could never replace my sisters.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- My Honey

As I have mentioned, I read a lot of boards for my particular chronic illness. One thing that is overwhelming to me is the lack of family support that a lot of us have. It really blows my mind that when someone you love is struggling, that you wouldn't want to do everything in your power to help them.

I am very, very fortunate. I have a family that is super supportive. I can talk until I am blue in the face- and you all are sick of it- about how wonderful they are to me. Each time I read the boards, I have to stop and give thanks that I have the family that I do.

My husband, Jim, likes to see himself as a bit of a "tough guy". He has this gruff exterior and doesn't like it when someone tells him how "sweet" he is. When people first meet him, they think he is a little intense and scary and he loves it. Unfortunately for him, if you get to know him, you can see through this to the big heart he has. He is fiercly loyal to his friends and family and would give them the shirt off his back if they needed it. He is also a wonderful father to our son Josh. He may not outwardly show it all of the time but he loves Josh with all of his heart and is so very proud of him. It is when he talks about Josh that you first see the cracks in the exterior.

Jim and I met in high school and got married soon after. We have had some really, really rough times in the over twenty years that we have been together but somehow we always rally and pull through. Over the years we have formed a partnership that works for us.

Like many men, Jim had a tendancy to not be very empathetic when I would get the flu or a severe cold. His answer was "take some nyquil and knock it out" even though I cannot do antihistimines. Of course, when he was sick- the world stopped. I don't mean to generalize but I have seen this dynamic many, many times in many, many marriages. When dad got sick, it was as if he were dying, but when Mom got sick- she was expected to take care of herself and go on as if she were fine. I am not saying he would not help out- because he absolutely would, but there was just a typical disconnect there. This concerned me when I first started showing symptoms of my RA. We didn't know what was going on- only that for some reason my body was rebelling.

I should have had more faith in him. He has come through while we fight this disease in a million ways. From the little things, like automatically opening a bottle of water before handing it to me, to the big things like taking over Wednesday nights so that I can go to bed very early, he supports me at all times. He went with me to learn how to give me my MTX injections in case my hands aren't working and I can't do it myself. He reads the literature that I bring home and the articles that I find. He encourages me to take naps when I need them and to do what I can without pushing me to do what I can't. He even came by work last winter when we got an ice storm to de-ice my car so that I didn't have to have my hands out in the cold weather for that long. He tries very hard to understand what I am feeling, while knowing that he can't truely understand what constant pain and stiffness can do to you both physically and emotionally. When I get frustrated with my limits, he steps in and helps without making me feel like he is doing me a favor. Best of all, he does these things without even thinking about it and without making me feel like I am less than.

I am just crazy about my honey and I am so blessed to have him in my life. I wish that everyone living with a chronic illness had someone like him to be their partner and support system as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty Two Days- Work

This is a good time for this post for me. I have been struggling at work. Not because I can't do the job but because I just don't know how to let go. Part of my job is to train the people under me to DO my job. My job is all about details and the attention to the right details is just not there with the people I am training. Many, many hours are spent worrying about something that is small and can be quickly fixed and not enough time is spent looking at the big picture and the steps involved to get from point A to point B. I can't put my finger on it, but in addition to trying to unteach bad habits, I am ultimately responsible for the entire semester and I have to make sure that it is complete and correct. And so I struggle. Do I take on more than I should or do I stress and sweat over what may be missed and try to scramble at the last minute to fix it?

There is so much talk on the news, in the papers, in everyday conversation about so very many people losing their jobs and my company is in a very sound position. Though we are trimming payroll on the part time side and trimming expenses they are not getting rid of any of the full time people and they are not cutting any benefits. We are so very fortunate to work for this company and that is one of the big reasons that I so want to do a great job for them. I want to show them my gratitude for taking care of me in this difficult economy and to set an example for the staff as to what can be done even without the extra part time help when we buckle down and follow the steps. I am so grateful to have my job and that Jim has his and we are hanging in there. I am trying so hard to keep that in the front of my mind when I become frustrated and typing this post will solidify my resolve and I can be thankful for that as well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Forty-two Ways in Forty-two Days- My Mom

I know that I have talked about my parents before. I posted on Father's day about my Dad. Today I want to focus on Mom. I mentioned in that post that she was a wonderful lady and I meant that.

Mom and I are quite a bit alike and did a lot of things in a 20 year parallel. Mom was born in '47, I was born in '67 (Josh was born in '87). She graduated in '65, I graduated in '85. She got married in '66, I got married in '86. She celebrated her 43rd anniversary married to my dad this February- I celebrated my 23rd anniversay married to Jim this February- our anniversaries are 4 days apart. Mom did a little college- I did a little college. We both get our temperments from my Granny- Mom's mom. She passed away a few years ago and left a huge hole in our hearts. Mom and I have both struggled with our weight for years, the difference is that Mom has come to terms with her issues- I have not. We have also struggled with our health.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was diagnosed at 38. Prior to that, most of my health issues centered around cervical displasia and fibroid turmors on my uterus. I had so many procedures that I still have to take a muscle relaxer before my annual exam. I know it's silly because in comparison to what I deal with now- and what Mom has dealt with but it is my hangup. Mom had the three of us girls between 1967 and 1971. After us, Mom had three unsuccessful pregnancies. I remember each of them and the heartbreak they brought her and dad. They never found a reason- just theories. When Mom was just three years older than I am now, she had a severe (are there less severe?) heart attack. Fortunately it wasn't hugely painful for her. She actually thought that she had pulled a muscle helping my son with his seatbelt on the way to send him home to us. When they went in- she ended up having emergency bypass surgery. At that point they thought perhaps the root of her issues were a stopped thyroid. Needless to say we have checked my thyroid often since then. Just a couple of years ago-before her 60th birthday, Mom had a stroke. It scared the hell out of us and spurred Jim and I to move out to Indiana so that we could be closer to her and Dad and help out any way we were needed.

In just as many ways as we are alike, Mom and I are different. For all of my life, Mom has been the heart, soul and glue of our family. While Dad was overseas during Vietnam, mom worked outside the home as well as raised me. When he came home, she became a stay at home mom. She was up with us in the morning to get us off to school. She was home when we got back at the end of the day. She kept the house and made it a home. When Dad went back to active duty, it was Mom who handled the moves so seamlessly that we marveled at how quickly she could make our new house- be they temporary living quarters or regular housing- a home. We would move in on one day, go to school the next and come home to find the house ready to live in. I have never had that talent. When Dad had to go TDY, or on Remote- Mom was always there- keeping us going. Mom nurtured our talents, she supported our dreams, and she made us believe that we could do or be anything we wanted. Mom was happy being at home and raising her family. That is something that I didn't have. I wanted to work outside the home. I wanted to try and be "super-mom". In hindsight, SHE was SuperMom. In addition to keeping our home and raising us, Mom supported Dad's career. She did the "military wives" thing with all of the accompanying clubs and duties of being an officer's wife. She volunteered her time, she baked for the troops, she knew their families and was there for them at all hours of the day and night. I knew it at the time- I just didn't "see" all the work she did that was above and beyond the call of duty.

It is funny how our perspective changes when we grow up. When she was "just" my mom I couldn't see the woman she was. When I think back, I see all the things she did for other people. I can see her being there with Dad- attending and hosting functions, typing his papers for school late into the night, organizing squadron events and doing so much more. I see her strength. I see her commitment. I see her compassion. I see the love she extended to our friends. I see what an impact she had on people outside her family. Now that I am older and I am back in the same state as my parents and spend as much time as I can with them, I see that that hasn't changed one iota even with her health issues. Dad may be the Pastor at the two churches in Ft. Branch- but Mom works just as hard as he does right beside him in her own way as she has her whole married life. Mom is both an inspiration and a role model. I only hope- as I do with Dad and Jim- that Josh can look back and say the same about me one day. When I "grow up"- I want to be more like my mom. I love her dearly and am eternally grateful to have had the Mother that I was given.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Forty-two ways in forty two ways- Quiet

We spent many, many years in the city. Almost 20 years in the overpopulated city of Lowell, MA located 35 miles north of Boston. Honking horns, traffic, sirens, yelling people, a cacaphony of sound that becomes background noise for any city-dweller. Restaurants, shopping, night life, public transportation, the availability of minor and major league sports, plays, concerts, art openings and other entertainment and cultural possibilities, educational options from community classes to higher education were things we took for granted. Add to that the fact that we raised a child there- with all the accompanying noise of friends and music and lessons and whatnot and the din can be quite deafening, but you become so accustomed to it all that you don't even notice.

In 2007 we moved to the very, very small town of Madison, IN. It was total culture shock. Madison is a picturesque little place on the Ohio river. The kind of town that rolls up its streets at 8pm. The silence was louder than the noise had ever been. It was so opposite what we were accustomed to that we fled as often as possible to Louisville for dinner, for shopping, for exposure to busy streets. Jim even had a really tough time sleeping without the noise. We did learn- very quickly- to love our deck on our townhouse. We could sit on it and revel in the peace and solitude all while being serenaded by the birds and squirrels and raccoons and deer that dwelled in the state park behind us. It was a completely different symphony from the one in the city- but a symphony none the less.

When we had the option to move down to New Albany, a larger town and only 4 miles from the city, we jumped. We just weren't ready for the complete solitude of Madison. New Albany is a compromise. Still a quiet town, but with just enough city in it to help us acclimate. Perhaps if we had done it in reverse- we could have been very happy in Madison when the time came, but I think it was meant to be this way. We thought that we needed the noise as well as the opportunities. Heck, Jim even slept like a baby the first night in NA when we heard siren just before we fell asleep.

We learned this weekend just how accustomed to the quiet that we have become. My darling nephew flew in to spend two weeks with my parents on Friday. I had forgotten how much little boys talk- and talk- and talk. Besides talk- there is just plain noises. Mouth noises, moving around, fiddling around on the piano, playing with the trumpet, all the "kid staving off boredom" stuff. And it drove us more than a little nutty. By the time Sunday lunch came- we were ready to take our dog and escape back to our home and to the quiet. We even told my dad that we would be siting on the couch just looking at each other not saying a word for the whole night-lol.

I am thankful for how quiet my life has become. I am also thankful to have learned that lesson from my nephew this weekend. Now I can revel in it when I realize how good I have it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Forty-two brings new goals and new challenges.

SO. Today is my forty-second birthday. I have to say that after reflecting on this in the days leading up to today-this is probably "mid-life" for me. The reason I am thinking this way is because there are many, many days that I feel "42"- but there are also quite a few days where I feel like I am "84". Pretty much anyone with a chronic illness like RA will be able to relate to that on some level. But one thing I DON'T feel any longer- is younger than my age. The funny thing is- I am okay with that. I have thought about this long and hard most of the day and I am perfectly okay with where I am in my life right now.

Being born in 1967, I am in some really good company (Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Meg Cabot,Dara Torres, Dave Matthews, Andre Rison, Deion Sanders et al.) and some more...dubious company (take your guesses from the list of folks born in my year ). I have a grown son, I have been married to my high school sweetheart since 1986. That's a lot of years. I am proud of those years and I wouldn't wish them away for anything.

Now- as this is a "new year" perhaps the REAL New Year of a person's life, I have come up with some goals and challenges for myself.

First- my GOALS for this year:

1- It is my goal to blog "42 Ways in 42 Days". For the next 6 weeks, beginning tomorrow, I am going to blog a specific thing that I am grateful for- not just what it is but WHY I am grateful for it. I have thought through and started my list, but there are plenty of spots open to add as I go along. If I have something else on my mind I can either do a second post here or I can put it at my less used blog on this server called "Just a place to Ramble".

2- My next goal is to do something strictly for someone else at least once a week. Not a favor- just a service. This is something that I will have to annotate elsewhere, because I don't want to feel like I am doing it to brag about it- but I do want to talk about the results and how I feel after.

Now for the CHALLENGES:

1- Two years ago when I moved out here- I was 25lbs less than I am right now. At that time I was happy with my progress but only half way to where I wanted to be. Now- I just want to get back there as a start. My challenge is finding the energy to move more and limiting my portions on a regular basis. I know what needs to be done- I just need to do it!

2- Until such time as we have the extra disposable income, I NEED to teach myself and start practicing yoga. I have two DVD's and a set of cards with basic yoga positions on them. I need to add them to my life because everything I read tells me that yoga will bring a lot of value to my life both mentally and physically.

There is more- but I need to focus- and here is where we are going for the time being. Let's hope that 42 is a great year!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Welcome Spring-in July?

No, I am not crazy. I do know that Summer officially started 10 days ago. Our spring so far has been hot, hot, hot and muggy, muggy, muggy. We have averaged in the nineties with a ton of rain. This morning- the first day of July- I woke up to take my little princess out for her walk at 4:30 am and it was a gorgeous 62 degrees out. What a beautiful surprise! Harley and I walked and walked and I stretched my muscles as much as I could while we were out there.

I came back home and made my honey a sandwich to take his medrol with (poor guy has severe hives)while I waited for my coffee to brew. I flipped on the news and my weather person informed me that it will only reach the high seventies the next two days. This weather is perfect for me. My only regret is that I am not able to stay home for the next 48 hours to throw open all of my windows and enjoy this.

I start my Humira today and I am a *wee bit* anxious about it. When I talked to the nurse I told her the reaction that I have to the Enbrel (4+ hours feeling like I am on speed- then a severe crash) she was blown away. She had never heard of such a thing. She said I could have the same reaction with the Humira- or it could be doubled since it is only a bi-weekly dosage rather than weekly. Wouldn't that be fun? I just hope that indeed the Enbrel was the reason for the muscular pain and that we are not looking at Fibro too. I just don't want to have to add another med to my regimine. So- we give this a shot- no pun intended. LOL

SO- I am thankful that we have two beautiful days before we start to climb back into summer.

I am thankful that Jim has the medrol pack to start making him feel better and am hopeful that we have found the cause (we think it is the store brand tylenol he bought last week) so we can avoid this happening again.

I am so thankful that tomorrow night we get to head to see Mom and Dad and I get a nice long weekend to relax.

Lastly I am eternally grateful that we still have options to treat my RA and let me live a full and happy life.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful day and that your weather is as temperate as mine.