Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Get Motivated! Seminar

I attended this day-long seminar yesterday at Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Expo Center. Prior to the seminar, I had talked to my dad about it as we had extra tickets and I would have been happy to have him along. He declined the invite as he had heard from fellow pastors that there was heavy sales pitches involved and he didn't want to make a 2 hour for a sales pitch. Needless to say- I was torn between excitement and skepticism going in.

The seminar was almost exactly what I expected. The speeches from Dr. Robert Schuller, Rick Pitino, Terry Bradshaw, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Laura Bush were wonderful. Each of them is well spoken, knows their subject and had they been the entire program- I could have been VERY happy.

Interspersed with these speakers were Phil Town and James Smith who were the afore warned sales pitches. The sad thing about that is they are both extremely charismatic and they (especially Phil Town) really pull you in as if he were doing a true educational seminar before he springs that the "secret" is the thousands of dollars worth of classes and software that you need to follow his "system". At that point, I stopped taking notes and my jaw dropped at the number of people rushing to the sign up table to take advantage of the "incredible bargain price of $99.00" If none of them follow through with any more than the one offer yesterday (and do not continue to pay for the web service which is 149/3mos) I am estimating that $250,000 easily was cleared on that piece alone. Possibly the same number of people signed up for the real estate seminar offered by James Smith (another bargain at $49.00). I do know that many of the SAME people signed up for both. Googleing when I got home found that at both of these seminars- you get a hard sell for further seminars. Not my idea of good investments- but I hope these people feel they get their money's worth.

The biggest...disappointment of the day was Zig Ziglar. Disappointment was not the word I am looking for, but seems appropriate. I have seen his presentations via tape before this and in his prime he was amazing. Very inspirational and motivational. What I found was that Mr. Ziglar has taken a fall and actually suffered a brain injury which has led to vertigo and short term memory impairment. This was disclosed to us by his daughter who was acting as his "interviewer". Mr. Ziglar answered a few "questions" and the majority of his segment was video clips from his old seminars which basically showed us the same information that he had already said during his live segment with his daughter. At the end of the segment, they had to remind him several times that it was time to leave the stage. It made me horribly sad to see this icon in this condition. My disappointment comes from his family allowing him to continue like this. I cannot fathom what it would help. It just hurt my heart.

All in all, considering that we paid only $19.00 plus parking (and an additional $40 since we preordered the workbook for each attendee-which was on sale at the event for 20 each) for the entire office to go, we got out of the office for a day and we enjoyed (very much) the key speakers- the seminar was a good investment. The workbook was a good value as it had plenty of places to take notes, outlines of the key speakers and speakers from other cities, and articles from the speakers and other world leaders in different fields- but again, I would order it ahead of time.

Physically it was VERY hard on me (I am paying in a big way last night and today for having spent easily 8 of the 10 hours in stadium seating)but I learned that we will not be able to attend concerts there (LOL- my 6'4" husband would NEVER fit in the seats with his long legs)and that if we go again next year, I can get up and walk around and give myself a break during any speaker with which I am not specifically wishing to see.

Would I go again? Yes. Would I plan my day differently- definitely! Now I just need to figure out how to use the insights that I learned yesterday in my own life. My biggest takeaway of the day was that I am on the right path. Many of the speakers talked about the need for positivity to acheieve success and make a good life for oneself. That alone was worth the price of admission!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Going to Get Motivated

My boss bought the whole office tickets to the Get MotivatedSeminar today. I have read the reviews, I know the pitfalls, but I am very excited to see Colin Powell speak. I admire him so very much. I also am looking forward to seeing Terry Bradshaw and Rick Pitino as well. They tell me Laura Bush will be wonderful, to be honest I haven't paid too much attention to her. For me she has been overshadowed by her other half. Zig Zigler is world renowned for his sales techniques and the people that are putting the seminar on- the Lowe's- eh, I can take or leave them. We get a 225 page "workbook" of all of the slides for the program so we can take notes, which will be nice, and also so that if we decide to go wander around during one of the speakers- we won't miss anything.

My hope is that somehow this gets through the message of ownership to the full time staff. My biggest challenge has been trying to break them out of the "this is MY job, that is YOUR job" mentality and teaching that we must cross train and work together in every area if we are going to be successful. Before I came, 7/8th of the full time staff was behind the doors of an office area, not out on the floor with the customers. It has taken over a year to get that changed and still there is resistance. I have hope that this will have a positive impact on them.

Either way I am looking forward to this seminar and am grateful for the opportunity to get out of the office and shake up the week and afterward share information and ideas with my colleagues and see what we each get as our take away message. I am hopeing we will all come away inspired!

I hope you have a wonderful day~I am looking forward to mine!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Things can always be worse

“A pessimist is one who feels bad when he feels good for fear he'll feel worse when he feels better.”

Have you ever known one of those people who are always waiting for the other shoe to drop? The ones who are always worrying about their kids, their husbands, their friends, their family members, their pets, their jobs, their everything? The ones who make themselves crazy over everything to the point that everything is a crisis? I have seen it a thousand times on message boards, on facebook, even twitter over the years: "I need prayers for my son. If he doesn't get an A on his test today he might not get into college (the child in question is 7)" "I need prayers for my daughter, if she doesn't make the softball team it will ruin her summer and her self esteem." "Please say a prayer for Fido, he threw up this morning after eating leftover sausage, I am afraid he has liver failure or worse!" Pessimists of the worst sort, these folks are not happy(?)unless they have something to fret over.

There was a time when I would have, at most, sent up the prayer they requested because obviously it meant something to them if they were taking the time to request that prayer in a public forum and at least I would have acknowledged their request in some form. These days- not so much.

The longer I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the more people I meet in what I consider "my" (the invisible illness) community, the longer I try to live my life from a place of positivity and gratitude and the more I surround myself with like-minded people, the less patience I have with the "drama mama's" of the world.

This weekend, as I was reading through the different social media sites and groups I saw quite a few of these messages. I think they have begun to stand out to me more these days. I found my fingers literally itching to type a response that would have been far from what they wanted. The problem is that I don't know how to, in a positive manner, remind these folks of all the things they have to be grateful for. I don't know how to help them see how blessed that they are if that is their largest concern. In fact, I have doubts that they would even want to hear that they are blessed because it would go toward eliminating their constant negativity. It had me thinking so much- and so many negative thoughts that I realized that I was almost feeding into the bad vibes and that is counterproductive for my journey.

I am in a quandry. Some of these people I care for deeply, but I need to find the point where it becomes toxic for me. Do I in essence delete them from my life? Do I use them as a reminder to count my OWN blessings? Do I ignore the pleas and each time I see one take the time to give thanks for my life instead?

There is a psychologist from Scotland that I follow on Twitter ( @Andrew_Johnson ) who often posts a message that I would like to pass along to them. It may be the tact that I take- but in the meantime I am going to repeat it as a mantra until I figure out what to do about this situation. I leave you with his quote:

STOP: With every thought, positive or negative, you create your reality. You are creating in every moment. Change your thoughts!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Does shaking things up help?

I am a bit of a computer geek. I admit it. It doesn't bother me at all to be known as a techno-geek. My husband is not so much a geek- but he loves to play online poker and other games. We have had a computer in our home and online access since between 1998-1999. The best, and worst, thing we ever did was get a second computer and set up a router.

Most evenings we get home from work, relax for a few minutes, make dinner and then we sit about 15 feet apart (me in my pseudo-office, him in the living room) each at our respective computers with our respective televisions on our seperate programs. We can see one another, there is a hall linking us, and we chat back and forth but there is a seperation there.

That makes us sound like we never talk- and that is not at all true. We run our errands together, we talk, we take the dog out for walks, but we also have our alone time while in the same house.

This weekend we did things a little differently. We shut off our computers and spent the whole afternoon and evening together both Friday and Saturday. We caught up on Wipeout (if laughter is the best medicine- I should be cured by now), we watched movies, we played with the dog. Just normal boring stuff. It was very pleasant. It was nice to just enjoy one another's company. It reminds me that we are blessed to be both friends and lifemates.

Will it change anything radically? Probably not. :-) We enjoy being able to keep up with our friends online, both of us have our hobbies that are different from one another. But we might just take more time away from the computers and for ourselves.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An e-mail that made my day.

I received this e-mail today. It put a smile on my face and speaks so well to how I feel about my life today. I wanted to share it with you all and to post it so I could keep it forever.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie,or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but looks so avant garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat,to be messy, to be extravagant.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they
understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love ...I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break
when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when
somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore.
I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day(if I feel like it).


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good News

Each morning, after Miss Harley and I take our walk, I plop down in my "office" (aka the section of my dining room with my desk, PC, television and secretary), sip my coffee and watch the local news before flipping on my DVR. Though my goal is to catch the weather and traffic forecasts I also like to keep abreast of what is going on in the world around me. The problem with this, and the reason I can't sit and watch the news all morning is that it is just so depressing!

In the last 15 minutes WLKY News (our CBS affiliate) has covered two shootings, one court case against a high school football coach recently acquitted of reckless homicide, 2 accidents currently being worked near here, killer floods in Georgia, the extended terror warning, and the fact that Anthem insurance just took the largest health care concern in Louisville out of their network- including Kosair Children's Hospital. It leaves me scratching my head and wanting to shout at the anchors; "Didn't anything GOOD happen in the Louisville area last night?"

This is not the way that I want to start my morning. All of this bad news just doesn't lend itself to a positive attitude. In response, my usual MO is to turn off the news and watch something I "taped" last night. Recently though I have begun to search out GOOD news. I sifted through the hits to weed out the specifically religious sites and this is what I have found:

The first thing that popped (and I bookmarked) was the Good News Network The founder describes her mission as this:
The mission is to provide a "Daily Dose of News to Enthuse." The Good News Network is a clearinghouse for the gathering and dissemination of positive news stories from around the globe. Daily stories will confirm what we already believe — that good news itself is not in short supply; the advertising of it is.
With stories that are positive and archives you can search- the Good News Network is an antidote to the inundation of misery we get from "regular news."

The second spot I found to land my cursor was Happy News. Happy News focuses more on people doing great things. As you read through the section on Heroes, you can't help but be inspired.

The third place I stopped was Positive News Daily This site from the UK brings us stories from all around the globe.

These sites are each balanced with stories about people, businesses and events that are bringing something good to this crazy world- and the bring a smile to my face. They are a MUCH better alternative for me to start my morning.

Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reality Check....

I got a not-very-nice reality check yesterday on how far my Rheumatoid Arthritis has progressed. Yesterday I started a book by book inventory of my store. It's not just counting books. It involves removing the collateral for digital titles,and other cross merchandising products, seperating the books on the shelf based on vendors and and a whole lot of walking, bending and lifting as well as stopping to help customers throughout. Now- I walk every day, twice a day, for a half an hour each time. Yesterday I realized how little effect those walks have on the grand scheme of things.

By the end of the day- my feet were burning (and I was wearing open shoes) and swollen to where I wouldn't be able to fit them into regular shoes if I tried. My ankles and knees and hips were throbbing and my arms were screaming bloody murder. I got home, started dinner, and then dropped. It was an hour before I could look at the stairs up to my shower without wanting to weep. It probably didn't help that I haven't been sleeping well and that I have been waking up with sore feet- but it has to be done. After showering and dinner I sat with my feet up for a bit and then headed to bed- but again sleep was elusive.

As I lay in my bed last night- feet and ankles throbbing it was the first time I have felt a real FEAR as to what is coming down the pike. It was less than three years ago that a 16 hour day on my feet, constantly moving, carrying anything from double trays to 3 cases of beer to stock was routine. Now- 8 was just brutal and I have to do it again today. It really sent me round and round mentally. In addition to dreading even getting out of bed this morning- I couldn't stop thinking that if I have deteriorated this far in just a couple of years- what is in store for me in just a few more? Where will I be in this journey? What else can I do to slow things down? Should I maybe spend MORE time back up on my feet so that I "toughen back up?"

I did finally get some sleep and when I jumped, no-bounced...okay... slowly rolled out of bed this morning (with a groan as my feet hit the floor no less) something had clicked. I made my way downstairs just like I do every morning, loved on Harley just like I do every morning, clipped on her leash just like I do every morning and took her out for her walk just like I do every morning. She is counting on me. She has faith that I will do what I have to do to make sure that her needs are met. I know darned good and well that when I let myself worry about the future it is an invitation to step off my path to being positive and mire myself in "what ifs". I have to do exactly what I did this morning- take it literally one step at a time. I have to count on myself and my body to do what has to be done and to have faith that I can do it. Harley doesn't care if I need to go slowly or if I am up to my "normal" speed, she takes her cues from me. It is me who needs to get past it bother me when I have to take it slow, and it is me who needs to take my cues from what my body is telling me. Noone who loves me and who matters to me cares if I have to take it slow or dial down what I do- I am the only one who needs to get to that same mindset.

I am pretty proud of myself this morning. I came to these realizations pretty quickly. I didn't let myself spend days wallowing or feeling sorry for myself. It was one evening and that is progress. This morning I have a renewed sense of hope and strength. I know I will feel pain at the end of the day but I also know that I can face it and I can push through it to get done what needs to be done. So I leave this with a quote for today that I will be repeating over and over until it becomes mantra:

When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
~Author Unknown

Saturday, September 19, 2009


It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are - not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within - that you can begin to take control.
Oprah Winfrey

One of the very first feelings for me when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis was that my life and my body had been taken out of my control. Being both a workaholic and somewhat of a control freak- it shook me to my foundation. Of course, that they immediately throw the worse case scenario at you ("if we don't treat this agressively you will be in a wheelchair by the time you are 45") doesn't help in the slightest when you are trying to come to grips with this- or any- diagnosis.

It took me a long time to wrap my head around the possibilities and even longer to realize that I could still have control but another kind of control. I just needed to shift my focus. I made a lot of significant changes which I have discussed in this space quite a few times (so I won't bore you with them again) but one of the best thing I did was to take a deep breath and begin searching for peace within.

Now- I am not- by any stretch of the imagination-what one would call traditionally religious. I have looked into many, many different paths. I have found good things with the majority of them- and things that I just cannot come to grips with within each of them. What I concluded was that though I do believe in a higher power, traditional religions don't really fit. I have found that for me, I am very comfortable sitting in my father's church and listening to him give his sermon, but in my heart I don't need to be in a church to find peace. I find it just as stirring in my soul to sit on a porch, with a cup of coffee and listen to the wind rustle the leaves in the trees. I have found peace in a quiet room, with music low and candles flickering. I have found that if I take a few minutes to just breathe and concentrate on just that, the world seems to slow down enough to really relax. All of these things and many others that I found can be just as spiritual for me as anything formal.

Finding peace within myself and within my life has allowed me to rethink my approach to my illness and my pain. It's funny how when you let go of many of the things you thought were SO important, when you let go of who you *think* you are, when you reshuffle your priorities and learn to be grateful for your life so much more comes to you. But it all starts with that spiritual quest. It can be as simple as reaffirming the faith you have lived your whole life, or a long quest to find where your faith lives or somewhere in between. The only way to do this is to look into your head and look into your heart and see where they connect.

Peace and love to all on this beautiful Saturday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Routines and Teamwork.

My parents are back from a lovely vacation in Vegas (YAY!) and that frees up my early mornings for reading and writing in my blogs.  I am so grateful that they are able to head out to Vegas or to North Carolina or to California every few months and take time to relax- they deserve that.  They have worked hard for many years and have earned every single one of those vacations.  It's funny though because I miss them when they are gone- just as much as when I was living a thousand or more miles away.  It makes me appreciate even more that we are living just a hundred miles away and can hop in the car and shoot across the state and visit whenever we would like.  In fact, I am really looking forward to doing just that as soon as my honey gets out of work this Saturday.

I am one of those people that needs a routine.  I don't want to say that I am not at all spontaneous but it is more of a planned spontaneity.  What in the world am I talking about, you might ask.  Well- for example when we are at my parents house for the weekend or home on a Sunday I am okay with just going with the flow.  On a Sunday afternoon before my methotrexate kicks in we might get in the car and drive.  No destination in mind- just go until we stop.  I actually enjoy that quite a bit- but if my husband suggested it on a Tuesday night at 8 it would completely throw me off.

Having my routine is one of the ways that I am able to mentally deal with the symptoms of my RA and Fibro and not let it get the best of me.  I find that for me it is easier to know what I need to accomplish, what I have coming up and how my week will go the best way to face everything.  Planning has always been a big part of my life.  There was a lot of years that I lived by my day planner in order to know where I was supposed to be when.  I booked my time more carefully than most CEO's so that I could be everywhere and do everything that I expected of myself and everyone expected of me.  I give thanks on a regular basis that my life is not like that any longer.  Now- I use my planner in a way to manage my health and still be productive.  When I wake up and am not in a good way, I can look at my planner and see what is planned for the day and for the week, what I can shuffle around to give myself the necessary downtime to recover, what I can delegate or get help with.  Having a fairly basic routine also allows me to know that if I just make it through until say 4pm, I can get home and into my pajamas and relax.   If I can just make it through till the end of work I can soak in a tub or take a nap or do whatever I need to restore my energy and relieve my aches and pains.

When I was thinking about this post I knew that I could not leave out teamwork.  My routine would not work half as well without my husband.  When I get home, I take Miss Dog out to wander around the yard for a bit and then most days we sit on the steps and wait for my honey to get home.  The little one is very happy to be outside and soak up the sun for a bit and it gives me time to separate myself mentally from work and home.  It also gives me time to evaluate how I am feeling and what I can do before bed.  Where I am most fortunate is that my honey is always there to pick up the slack for me when I need it and I know that he will always do his part.  If I don't feel up to cooking dinner- he is more than happy to take that on.  If I don't feel up to taking the dog for her evening walk- he is more than happy to do it.  If I start laundry when I get home, he will transfer it to the dryer because I can't always reach the bottom.  We do the housework together, we plan our meals together, either I grocery shop (which I LOVE) and he carries it in or we do the whole chore together.  I cannot imagine my life without him.  I give thanks on a regular basis that I married the kind of man (when I was too young and silly to know better-lol) that  is truly my helpmate.  If he didn't cook or refused to do housework, wouldn't take the dog for a walk or pitch in and help me when I needed help, or understand when I am tired or hurting it would be so much more challenging to live with a chronic illness.   I know that I *could* do what I had to do, but I also know that I am very blessed for having him in my life.  I do want to note- that this is not a matter of him stepping up to the plate because I was diagnosed.  I saw signs of this when we were young parents.  He was always a very hands on, involved father and that has only expanded as  we have learned together to deal with these diseases.

I am sure that the way I need a routine would not work for every patient with RA and/or Fibro but I do wish that everyone could have someone in their life that is as loving and understanding as my honey.  He really epitomizes what I mean when I call him my "other half".  He is the left hand to my right and to be without him is not something I would want to try.  Even when we are both tired and cranky and sniping at one another I know how fortunate that I am to have essentially grown up with and made a life with him.  When it comes to having created a routine for myself, I give thanks that I have been able to find a way to compartmentalize my life and organize it in such a way that I can handle dealing with the different aspects of my life and somewhat separate it in to manageable pieces.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reaching Out

I am a little on the pensive side this evening.  I just watched "Oprah Remembers Michael Jackson".  I was prepared to be sad.  I had every album from "Off the Wall"on up.  My hubby and I fell in love during the "Thriller" years and actually- that album is one of the few that I kept when I pared down and donated most of my vinyl to a friend who was a DJ.  The show really didn't make me sad until the end.  If you are not an Oprah person or if you just didn't see it, she basically went through her 1993 interview with him- she showed a lot of it and commented where it was warranted.  I saw the interview back then and the same thing struck me both times.  This man- this musical icon of my generation was so very sad and lonely that you could feel it in his words and see it in his eyes.  I find it a stark reminder that the people that we think should *have it all* may not be living as charmed a life as we think.

What really got me thinking was something Oprah said at the end of the show.  She started with that she would always wonder; if she had reached out- not that it would have made anything different as far as what was going in terms of his death or anything  but...She said that looking back she can see how profoundly lonely he really was and she thinks that at the time she was so caught up in the "We got the interview with Michael Jackson!" hoopla that she finished the interview and that was that.   Then she went back to say- "Maybe if I had reached out- I would feel better about this moment."  I took that to mean (and I could be wrong- though I am a huge fan we are hardly BFF's) that watching that interview and not having made that gesture was a missed opportunity in her life.  She can see how sad and lonely he was and she was so caught up in her own "thing" that she did nothing about it and now regrets that she didn't make the effort beyond the interview to get to know him and perhaps alleviate some of that loneliness.

I mentioned during my 42 days the ripplemakers in our lives.  I sit here and wonder now, after watching that show, how many opportunities have I missed?  How many times have I been so caught up in my own "stuff" that I missed the opportunity to reach out to someone in need?  I have worked pretty hard at getting past the point in my life where I let whatever is going on at this time consume me, but I still have far to go in that respect.  So how can I make myself more aware of what may be going on around me and more in tune with what is going on with other people?  Is it a matter of becoming more selfless rather than selfish?  Any suggestions?  Definitely something to think about.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Making Therapy Fun

I have mentioned before that my darling mother had a stroke at the beginning of '07 which was the impetus for us moving out here to be closer to her and my dad. That would make her having just turned 60. Not something we ever expected and yes- it scared the daylights out of all of us. Looking back now- it was a blessing because it forced them to look hard at all factors and we discovered that she has a clotting issue- which we can trace all the way back to multiple miscarriages after we three girls were born and for which she is finally being treated. We were also very fortunate that the physical side effects were minimal. When she woke up she "felt" fine. Physically- she was doing great. Mentally- not so much. At first, she had big holes in her memory. She didn't quite know who my dad was, she remembered 2 of the three of our names and the names of the third's children (we were Julie, Lisa and.....Jon and Lauren's Mom). She remembered that she was supposed to go to Vegas the next day with her sister- but not many, many other things. She could read words- but finding their meaning and having them make sense was very difficult. Linking things was a challenge as well. During therapy if you told her "Put down your book, answer the door, get a glass of ice water" One of those three things would get lost. It was incredibly frustrating to her. She has always been a voracious reader and whip smart and in having this stroke she lost a big part of herself. She has had some personality changes as well but they are slight and only noticable to those of us who know and love her. She has less patience with herself, and sometimes with us and that is the biggest change.

As part of her therapy, they started with children's books and games to teach her to make sense of words and to follow progressions. She was somewhat embarrassed that she was learning to play games that our 5 year old nephew had mastered but it was a process that needed to be followed. She spent quite some time working with occupational therapists to get back some semblance of normalcy and we encouraged her (I even bribed her with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-giving her a goal to be able to sit and read by July when the book came out) in every way we could. When all was said and done, it was only when she was getting tired that she would lose her words on a regular basis and get frustrated, she still had headaches if she tried to read and at times progression instructions were difficult for her.

Then we accidentally hit on a way to keep working on her "therapy" without making it seem like work.  Christmas of '06 my niece had asked for Webkinz for Christmas and so I got a couple of them for all of the kids.  If you are not familiar with this "toy" it is a series of stuffed animals (and now clothing, accessories, etc) by the Ganz company that come with a code attached.  You go online to and you adopt your pet.  A much more sophisticated and advanced version of the nanopets and gigapets from my son's generation, you sign on to the website each day and feed your pet, take care of them, you play games and earn money to build them a home etc.  The best way I can describe it is Beanie Babies meets Gigapets meets the Sims.  Mom and Dad went to visit the California kids a few months after her stroke and my sister was taking care of the Webkinz for my niece and Mom was intrigued.  My sister showed her how to play some of the games and though they were challenging for her due to the stroke- they were FUN!  It was like playing the games from her therapy session but much more interactive and she could do them at her own pace.  Before leaving California, Mom got her own Webkinz pet and set up an account and she was on her way.

We are now just about 2 years past the time when Mom discovered Webkinz.  Her collection of pets has grown so large that she has begun donating the actual stuffed animals to schools. She has given each of us our own Webkinz and accounts so that we can share this with her.  She spends time each day online taking care of her "pets" and playing the games and doing other activities that require her to think and remember.  The results have been remarkable.  She has built up her stamina for working the games far beyond when she completed formal therapy.  She has more patience with herself.  She is more willing to keep trying on the things she has difficulty with because each level is more challenging and if you have trouble with it three times- it will take you back down a level until you are ready to move up again.  She has regained her confidence in other areas and is even doing Sodoku and crosswords again. There is a built in "reward" system in terms of "prizes" and "kinz cash" and so in spite of the fact that she is working her brain- it is a game and fun, not "work."   I can honestly say- most of the time now it is as if she never had the stroke at all.  Her doctor has noticed the progress as well and I have told her that she should recommend it to her doctor for other stroke patients as well.

Just as some physical therapists use the Wii with their patients (I am a BIG fan and both my parents and I have one) it might not be a bad thing for OT's to use something like Webkinz to challenge their patients as well.  Even if it never catches on- I will be eternally grateful for what it has given to my mom.  

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you type Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diet into Google, you will get 634,000 hits. Can you tell that "we" are always on the lookout for something that will help control our RA? On a personal level, my lifestyle doesn't allow me the luxury of trying the more "radical" diets that some folks subscribe to- gluten free, carb free, vegan, no nightshades, no dairy, etc are some of the diets that RA'ers have and are trying to find some relief.

As I have mentioned before- when it comes to medical information online- I look no further than the Mayo ( )Clinic. On my google search, they were the 5th to pop up and this is what they have to say about diet and RA:

Rheumatoid arthritis diet: Do certain foods worsen symptoms?
Can certain foods worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?

from April Chang-Miller, M.D.
Because the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis vary from one day to the next, it may seem reasonable to think that the foods you eat might affect your symptoms. Although there's no definitive evidence that any particular foods have an effect on joint pain or inflammation, some research suggests that oranges and certain fish oils may reduce joint inflammation in some people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, more research is needed to assess this possible benefit.

If you believe a certain food increases your arthritis symptoms, there's no harm in omitting it from your diet to see if it helps. But don't exclude whole food groups or large numbers of foods without consulting a registered dietitian or your doctor.

It's important to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Excess weight puts increased stress on your weight-bearing joints, increasing joint pain, stiffness and inflammation.

Now- that said- one of the things that I have been investigating is Antioxidants. As far back as August 2002 USA Weekend Magazine was offering up articles on the benefit of antioxidants. Claims for antioxidants range from lowering cholesterol to fighting inflammation to keeping the heart healthy. All of these are good things- and, if in fact it DOES fight inflammation, that would be good for us! When you look at the list of foods (below) offered up by (the benefits of high fiber foods are too numerous to go into on this post) each of them is a food that are "good for you" to begin with. So, whether or not all of the claims are true- it won't hurt to base my meals around these foods. If nothing else- I am hoping that by focusing on these foods and using less of my plate for other foods- it will restart my metabolism and maybe some of this excess weight will come off- and that WILL benefit my RA immensely.

Antioxidants can be naturally obtained from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes and also synthesized in human body. Antioxidants are also available in specially formulated supplements. The following fruits are among the foods high in antioxidant activity. The antioxidant content data is adapted from research report published in a scientific journal (find the full citation at the bottom of this page).

Table: List of food sources containing high levels of antioxidant activity.
Antioxidant Food Sources Antioxidant Content/Activity






Olive (black)


Strawberry (wild)


Olive (green)


Strawberry (cultivated)








Plum (red)


Grape (black)


Grapefruit (yellow)








Kiwi fruit


Prickly pear


Peach (yellow)




Melon (cantaloupe)






Apple (red Delicious)


Grape (white)


Apple (yellow Golden)






Melon (honeydew)




More lists of food sources high in antioxidants :
Fruits, vegetables, nuts
Breakfast cereals, whole grains
Cereals grains
Black and green tea, wine, coffee
Dark chocolate and other cocoa products
Antioxidant food rating/content on the above table is based on Ferric reducing-antioxidant power (FRAP) method and unit of measurnment is mmol Fe 2+/kg Fresh weight)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Positive Thinking

When it comes to finding medical information online, I always turn to the Mayo Clinic. I find them more comprehensive than any other site and as a hospital,they are obviously very well respected. While surfing their site I found a wonderful article on what positive thinking can do for you.

Some of the highlights include:

Understanding Positive Thinking and Self Talk

The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It's unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It's also thought that positive and optimistic people live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and have reduced rates of smoking and alcohol consumption.

Identifying Negative Thinking

Focusing on Positive Thinking

Examples of How to Turn Negative Self Talk into Positive Thinking:

Examples of typical negative self-talk and how you might apply a positive twist include:

Negative self-talk Positive spin
I've never done it before. It's an opportunity to learn something new.
It's too complicated. I'll tackle it from a different angle.
I don't have the resources. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I'm too lazy to get this done. I wasn't able to fit it into my schedule but can re-examine some priorities.
There's no way it will work. I can try to make it work.
It's too radical a change. Let's take a chance.
No one bothers to communicate I'll see if I can open the channels of communication.
with me.
I'm not going to get any better I'll give it another try.
at this.

Practicing Positive Thinking Every Day

We all have that little voice inside our head that whispers to us (and sometimes SCREAMS at the top of "our" lungs) and color the way we see everything in our lives. Attributed to the Mayo Clinic Staff, this article is a tool that anyone can use to evaluate the way we talk to ourselves and how we view our circumstances. It gives us insights on how to change our thinking. Glass Half Full/Glass Half Empty, it's our choice and this article can help turn off the negative voice and turn up the positive voice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Tao of Pooh

On the top of my iGoogle page (if you don't have one, I recommend it if only for the virtual cat you can add from the labs. It always makes me smile) I have the list of Grateful Pooh's Top 5 Zen Tips:

1) Be happy and those around you will be happy...thus bettering our society.
2) To be happy you must accept yourself as you are.
3) Remember that your emotions and reactions to others are totally in your control.
4) Do not build a wall around you, open yourself to all that life offers.
5) Stop and Breath the Air - Think About all the living things that make the air what it is.

What a wonderful reminder of how to live our lives, don't you think?

These are from The Tao of Pooh written by Benjamin Hoff. Hoff uses the characters from A.A.Milne's Winnie the Pooh to introduce readers to Taoism. This book had a profound effect on me. I found that I am VERY MUCH a Tigger. About Tigger, Hoff says:

There's nothing wrong with not being able to whistle, especially if you're a fish. But there can be lots of things wrong with blindly trying to do what you aren't designed for. Unfortunately, some people aren't so wise, and end up causing big trouble for themselves and others. The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not. To demonstrate what we mean, we can think of no one better than Tigger, who doesn't know his limitations ('Tiggers' can do everything'), which brings him in lots of trouble. Piglet instead knows his limitations and that's what makes him sometimes more brave than you would expect from such a small animal. So, the first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own Inner Nature, and not lose sight of it. Inside the Bouncy Tigger is the Rescuer who knows the Way, and in each of us is something Special, and that we need to keep

This text is taken from 'The Tao of Pooh' by Benjamin Hoff, published by Mandarin Paperbacks. Also published by Mandarin Paperbacks and written by Benjamin Hoff; 'The Te of Piglet'.

After reading this book I learned that I often don't know my limitations and indeed that does bring me lots of trouble. One prime example is in my four year journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Early on I had no idea how to listen to my body. Despite all the doom and gloom I read and was told by my first Rheumy I was convinced that I should be able to do anything and everything that I had done pre-diagnosis. I can't help- now- but wonder how many flares I brought on working 18 hour days and working a hundred days in a row without so much as a day off. How often did I send my immune system into hyper drive by overusing my joints carrying two heavy trays of 8 plates of food each or carrying 2-3 cases of beer to the bar at once or 2-3 50lb boxes of books to the shelves at once? What damage did I do supplementing my constant coffee intake with energy drinks? And for what? Was it to prove to myself that "they" were wrong and that my life wasn't going to change due to RA? Was it because my head was in a "I have to do this so we can pay our bills" mode? I will never have those answers. I am okay with that because I have removed myself from that cycle. I do sometimes look back and think "What was I thinking?" but I follow that with "Thank goodness I grabbed the opportunity to get out!"

I still over-do it at times. I put pressure on myself to finish something *today* that I could finish tomorrow. It's the north east "city" mentality in me that hasn't fully adjusted to a slower way of life yet. I still tend to push myself to the point of exhaustion- but I have learned that when I am treading that line it is time to STOP. I have learned to relax and give myself some quiet time every single day. I no longer drop into bed and fall right asleep, instead I spend time reflecting on my day. I have learned that I don't have to be perfect and that I *can* slow down. I make a concerted effort each day to give thanks for the day and to let go of whatever is on my mind before I close my eyes at night. Finally I can go to sleep and shut off today and tomorrow and the next day and everything that I need to do and really let my sleep rejuvenate me. I have learned to listen to my body when the pain level rises and take care of myself.

I am still a Tigger. I think it's a part of being a bit of an over-achiever. To serve as a reminder of the bad part of being a Tigger- I had him tattooed on my body shortly after reading the book. I see it and it serves as a reminder to find my limits. It may not always work- but many times it does.

My next read is The Te of Piglet. It's time to see if I can be less of a Tigger and more like Piglet. If nothing else- it will give me something to think about. The Te of Piglet says of Tigger:

Well, it takes all kinds to make a mess.

The West is full of Tiggers--restless seekers of instant gratification, larger-than-life overachievers. The West idolizes them because they're Bouncy and Exciting. Maybe even a bit too exciting. And they're becoming more exciting all the time. It seems that it's no longer adequate to be a True Individual, or even a Hero; now one needs to be some sort of Superman, living an overinflated life punctuated (in true Tigger fashion) with exclamation marks. Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! This is the age of Supereverything--Superstar, Superathlete, Supercoach, Superpolitician, even Superbusinessman: Faster than a speeding ticket! More powerful than a profit motive! Able to lease tall buildings in a single day!

Tiggers are not necessarily what they seem, however. While they may appear to be self-propelled, they are in reality jerked this way and that by whatever appealing object or sensation catches their attention. And while Tiggers may appear energetic to the extreme, their love of ceaseless action and sensation is actually a form of spiritual laziness. Tiggers are not in control of their lives, as is clearly shown by their behavior.

The goal is to move as far away from the hyper drive "Tigger" life I have led for so long and to become more spiritually aware. To find less satisfaction from what I accomplish for myself and more from what I can do for others. To make that internal switch that will allow me to not stress myself out over things not in my control. To take that top 5 list at the top of this post and do my best to live it. It is another step in my journey toward a truely positive and grateful life.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Positive Things

I have had some wonderful feedback on my blog recently. People who, like me, are trying to approach their chronic illness from a positive place. I cannot say often enough how important it is to surround ourselves with like-minded people when it comes to this. It can be very easy to let yourself get caught up in a web of self pity. It takes true effort to be positive and grateful when faced with adversity such as this. The thing is- when you get to that place where you have made the shift in attitude to that of gratitude and positivity- not only does the pain become bearable, flares become manageable (because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel) and everything else in your life seems a little better as well. Did you know that looking at the positives can actually relieve stress? It makes sense though because how can you be stressed if you are counting all of your blessings?

I have already shared the books that keep me on track in a previous blog. Today I wanted to share with you some of the wonderful blogs, websites and magazines that I read to keep myself on the right path. Please note that each of these folks are also on Twitter and you can find their twitter names on their blogs. Following their blogs and tweets makes my day brighter.


Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy Though men with Rheumatoid Arthritis are in the minority- this voice is very strong. RA Guy, as he is known, shares his journey, a lot of information, and blogs that he likes as well. His daily blogs are a wonderful way to start the day. He is the original Superhero of RA. ;-) Go back and read RA Bingo and his 60 Second Guide. The first you will laugh and it will definitely brighten your next flare and the second is a great resource for your friends and family.

The Single Gal's Guide To RASara has given a voice to those who are young, single and living with RA. Her blog has been such a hit that you can now find her on WebMD's RATV as well. Though I am neither young (I have about...10 years on her) or single (I have been married over 23 years) she goes through many of the same things we all do and that makes her relatable to all. She also has many resources for readers on her blog.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior This is Kelly's new site. As her title suggests- she is our warrior spirit. Her blog is very, very informational with hours of research going into each article. She wages a war against mis-information and accomplishes her goal of bringing encouragement and inspiration to RA patients.

Miss Dazey's Blog Miss Dazey is the self proclaimed "elder" statesmen of our blog. Miss Dazey is very vocal on Health Care Reform and bringing the message that you can LIVE with Arthritis.

Living Rheum This blog shares not only Jo-Ann's journey with RA but also her "gadgets and finds", easy to make recipes, supplements that may help and a more holistic approach to treating your RA.


Many of my favorite websites are about slowing down and simplifying your life. Taking the steps to do both of those things were the first part in my journey.

Zen Habits This blog/website is tailored toward simplifying your life while making it more productive. Though mostly geared toward the work life many of the tips are applicable for both work and home.

Fly Lady This website is for those of us who HATE housework. The Flylady method is all about eliminating CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) and getting you to a place to where your housework is simple and manageable. They take things in baby steps and no task is so large that those of us with chronic fatigue will wear ourselves out if we are not in flare. **Be warned** If you sign up for the emails- you get a LOT of emails- but they are all worth while. Personally, I find it easier to manage reading online.

Daily Affirmations We all need a little lift from time to time. This website is designed just for that.


These are the magazines I read on a regular basis. It is my habit to basically rip *most* of my magazines apart. I literally take them and tear out the articles I want to read and put them in a file. I take a folder of articles with me for any time I will be waiting- waiting rooms, labs, pharmacy, you name it. It is much easier than hauling the whole magazine around and gives me a quick lift. I cut out recipes and put them in a binder to try. I cut out photos of things I would like in my dream home and put them in another binder (my "dream" binder- but that is another blog) and I cut out beautiful and serene pictures for when I need a nudge to find peace.

O Magazine This is Oprah Winfrey's magazine. Full of positive articles, wonderful recipes and snippets designed to make you really THINK about your life, your goals, your spirituality and your blessings. Much of the content can also be found at her website:

Country Magazine Their tagline is "For those who live in and long for the country". The photos are gorgeous, the recipes very homey and the article celebrate a kinder, gentler part of the world. Reiman Publications who publishes Country also publishes Taste of Home and Quick Cooking which I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys cooking.

AARP magazine No, I am not quite old enough for AARP yet but my parents share this magazine with me. This magazine highlights older Americans as well as sharing resources that many of us can learn from on health, financial planning and government programs and such that affect us as much as the older generation.

Real Simple This is my favorite magazine of all. In fact, I was cutting so much of this magazine that I decided over a year ago to keep it in tact. Now I have a shelf full of these magazines. Each one is chock full of tips and ideas to make every aspect of your life simpler.

That about covers today's list. I would like to invite any readers to contribute any additions from their own list. Any blogs, websites or magazine that has a positive effect on YOUR life and that you refer to often. I am always looking for more and would love to hear your suggestions.

Enjoy your Saturday all!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

Invisible Illness Week has asked us to fill out this survey and post it to our blogs and other places. I am doing my part by posting it here and at facebook. I hope you will join me and when you do- leave a comment with a link so I can read yours. Sharing is one of the best things we can do to help raise awareness.

My thanks to Invisible Illness Week for creating this survey and for making me think!

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2005/2009

3. But I had symptoms since: 2004

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: coming to terms with my limitations

5. Most people assume: that RA is the same as Osteoarthritis

6. The hardest part about mornings are: getting my hands going and my back stretched out

7. My favorite medical TV show is: n/a

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: a jar gripper

9. The hardest part about nights are: getting to sleep
10. Each day I take _5_ pills & vitamins and 2 injections a week. (No comments, please)

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: wish there were accupuncturists on my health plan in my area.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: to stay how I am.

13. Regarding working and career: it's hard to balance with taking care of my illness.

14. People would be surprised to know: how much I ache all the time.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: knowing there is no cure.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: give myself shots

17. The commercials about my illness: annoy me. Most of them are either stupid or contain old people.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: having energy.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: most of my crafts.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: making jewelery and "knitting".

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: wear heels for a day!

22. My illness has taught me: gratitude

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: "Oh, just do xxx and it will cure you. My grandmother had arthritis and this worked for her!"

24. But I love it when people: understand that I am tired and can't do all the things I used to do.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: This too shall pass.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Attitude makes all the difference. You can choose to live with or suffer from your disease.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how easily people forget you are sick when they can't see it.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: book me a massage.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: people should know you can't see every illness.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: like you care enough to learn more.

Find out more about National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and the 5-day free virtual conference with 20 speakers Sept 14-18, 2009 at

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Good things about having Rheumatoid Arthritis?

My RA has been more in focus this week because of a comparativly minor flare that I have been dealing with since last Thursday. I have been letting the whole situation get to me on an emotional level and that rather irritates me. So- in an effort to take back my power over this disease- today I am celebrating the positive side of having RA.

1- Pajamas. Noone can complain about us getting back in our pajamas at 4 in the afternoon (or staying in them all day for that matter) and what is better than comfy pajamas?

2- Sleepy side effects. Sundays I always get to nap courtesy of my MTX injections and Wednesdays I go to bed at 6:30 pm thanks to my Enbrel injections.

3- Finding courage you never thought you had. Though I was never afraid of needles (as is evidenced by my tattoos) I never,ever thought I would be able to give myself an injection. Now- I do it twice a week with very little thought.

4- True Colors. When it comes to living with chronic pain and a chronic illness, you find out who your true friends/family are. The way they treat you and your illness lets you figure out very quickly who is supportive and who can't handle it, who will be there with you for the long haul and who backs off. It can be enlightening- but also freeing.

5- The chance to come to terms with who you are. It is ironic how dealing with chronic pain can shake up your self image at it's very foundation. No matter how physically, mentally or emotionally strong you thought you were- it WILL be tested.
Not being able to do something as mundane as tying your own shoes can rock your whole world. It is how you handle it that will show you your true self. It will show your strength and weaknesses. It can make you redefine yourself from the ground up- but that is not always a bad thing. Breaking down your own stereotypes can lead you to someone you like even better.

6- Blessings- when things you are spiraling downward, counting them can not only turn your attitude around, but it can make your blessings more important than the things that are weighing on you.

I am sure there are many more but I am running short on time. Through the day I will try and think of more and it will make my day go the right way rather than allowing my day to be ruled by the pain. For that I can be grateful.