Saturday, October 31, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

Halloween in Salem about 5 years ago....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cookbook

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finding Zen: Slowing down and enjoying life more.

I have a seperate file on my email for the different things in my life. RA related emails, Family, Zen Lifestyle and Diet and Exercise etc. I save different emails so that I can go back and read them when the time is right. This morning I found the perfect email for today and I wanted to share it with everyone:

The 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down and Enjoying Life More

Slow down and enjoy life.
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
It’s an irony of our modern lives that while technology is continually invented that saves us time, we use that time to do more and more things, and so our lives are more fast-paced and hectic than ever.

Life moves at such a fast pace that it seems to pass us by before we can really enjoy it.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s rebel against a hectic lifestyle and slow down to enjoy life.

A slower-paced life means making time to enjoy your mornings, instead of rushing off to work in a frenzy. It means taking time to enjoy whatever you’re doing, to appreciate the outdoors, to actually focus on whoever you’re talking to or spending time with — instead of always being connected to a Blackberry or iPhone or laptop, instead of always thinking about work tasks and emails. It means single-tasking rather than switching between a multitude of tasks and focusing on none of them.

Slowing down is a conscious choice, and not always an easy one, but it leads to a greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness.

Here’s how to do it.

Yes, it's a bit of a tease- but I don't own the copyright so I am sending you to one of my favorite blogs Zen Habits to find out these 10 essential rules. I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I do. Personally, I can spend hours on the different articles and am very thankful that it is online so I don't have to take notes rather I can read it over and over.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Less is More?

I am watching Oprah's show from yesterday entitled "Oprah on Location: The Happiest People on Earth". She traveled around the world to find the people who were most happy in their lives. This show truly intrigued me.

While in Copehagen, Denmark one of the men said "Less space, less things, more life!" One of the ladies stated that "Success is not measured by your social class but by your values and how you balance your work and family life". I love the idea of this. I feel like it would be very freeing to be able to adopt this lifestyle. Taxes can go up to 60% in Denmark but as a "socialist" country all of their needs such as healthcare are taken care of- and there is NO homelessness and very, very little crime.

In Dubai UAE, it is very traditional to live surrounded by family. In addition to having that family support system, they also have outside help from housemaids, to chefs to drivers. In Dubai there is no income tax- but water, electric, healthcare and unemployment are all completely taken care of by the government. Homelessness is also not an issue in Dubai. Family takes care of family and in the case of the woman interviewed (who incidentally was a doctor) her mother-in-law retains a chef who makes enough food in the enormous "central kitchen" for the entire family three meals a day. The support system in the family was amazing!

In Rio de Janiro, Brazil we saw both the "rich" side of Rio and the "slums" but it was interesting to see that even in the slums though the apartments were tiny and not in the best condition, the woman said that she felt very safe there with her children as there is no drug trade in her area. Though there is not that issue- violence IS an issue in Rio.
In Rio there is not a big mortgage industry. People save until they can afford a home- and if they cannot afford it- they rent. There is none of the 30 years of debt, foreclosures and the mess we are in in the US.

Next up was Istanbul. I have lived in Incirlik Turkey but we never made it east to Istanbul so I was intrigued to see how that would differ from my experience. In Istanbul education is paramount- but at 32 (on average) women quit their jobs to stay home and raise their families. What I saw was much more urban living than what we experienced. Because they are considered to be both in Europe and Asia it is a more sophisticated life than we saw out in the country.

In Tokyo, Japan though the mothers stay home with their children, single women do work outside the home. Work days are very long. Unlike in Denmark when the work day ends at 4- in Tokyo it is not unusual to work late late hours. The homes, like Denmark, are very small but the level of technology is much more relied on.

It was very interesting to see the differences and what was the same with all of these cultures. Having lived in the Phillippines and Turkey, I was very aware of how blessed we are to have all of the "things" that we have but this made me wonder how my life would be if we really, really scaled back.

The problem for me is that I wouldn't know where to begin. I am a saver. I have clothes in 3 different sizes (now, 1 up and 1 down)in my closet, I have literally boxes of Salt and Pepper shakers that I collected when I was a child and that my grandmother collected as well and I received when she passed. I have a bunch of snow globes- I love snow globes. I have a whole china cabinet of Harry Potter stuff because I collected that as well. We have knick-knacks, furniture, books, books and more books. I would have a tough time even knowing which to give up first.

I just keep going back to what the couple from Denmark said both about having less of everything meaning they have more time to really live and that success is measured by your values and balance between work and family. I can see how they correlate. If you have less "stuff" to worry about (and care for) you have more time to spend doing things you love with people that you love. I am just not sure how to get there- or if I can bring my hubby around to that thinking! :-)

Well, it is definitely something to think about this weekend. But now I am off to work and have to put this aside for now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Every morning I get my horoscope from both Twitter and from Facebook. They are usually pretty divergent. Though I don't live and die by my horoscope, I do get a lift from reading them. If they are positive- then I can take it and run with it. If it is negative- I can do my best to "prove it wrong." I like today's Twitterscope:

"You may experience an "Aha!" moment as you realize something you can do that improves your daily life without shaking up the parts that work. But having a brilliant thought, even if it's a stroke of genius, isn't meaningful unless you put your idea into motion. Don't try to do too much all at once; it's better to take a small step in the right direction than a giant step that leads you the wrong way."

My first thought when I read this was "oh thank goodness!". We have been experiencing some financial concerns recently with medical bills and other things and of course the holidays approaching like a 747. My husband's work schedule doesn't permit him to schedule much of anything outside of there. From day to day he gets out of work anywhere between 2:30 and 4:30 and never knows until Friday if he is working Saturday and IF he is working Saturday he doesn't know until Saturday morning if he is working 4,5,6 or 8 hours. It makes us a little crazy but more, it makes him incapable of doing anything outside of work that would require a firm commitment. That leaves us with a choice- we can muddle through or I can take a second job. Having worked two jobs for many, many, many years- I have resisted so far. I am hoping that today's horoscope means that I will have the brainstorm that will let us figure out how to get this situation under control without resorting to adding a second job back to my life. I had to laugh though because "they" certainly have me pegged in that I tend to jump into things and take that giant step. One of the struggles of the journey toward a new life for me has been to learn to take baby steps- so I needed that reminder as well.

This morning I am grateful to have had some relief from the fibro flare that came on full force yesterday. I am grateful that I have the kind of job where I can take my heating pad with me and use it as needed. I am grateful that I found this horoscope this morning and didn't have to search out a quote to start my day off in the right direction. I am grateful that my stress is beginning to dissapate and I am on the road back to serenity. Hopefully by the weekend I can be fully back on track.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stress and Gratitude

I returned to work yesterday after a lovely long (for me) vacation. As I got ready for work, headed out the door and drove closer and closer to work I could feel the tension build in my shoulders, my neck, my back. I arrived at work and began looking through the stacks of work, notes and emails and tried to prioritize what needed to be done in what order and I could feel my stress level rise further and further. By the end of the day, when I finally left the building two hours after quit time I was a bundle of nerves, tight muscles and a tension headache that wrapped around my head and into my TMJ.

It doesn't much sound like it when you read the above but I should probably say that as a general rule- I genuinely LIKE my job. I like the routine, I like the flow of the work and I like the whole process. Unfortunately I am in a situation where I can't necessarily trust that when I am out things will continue on as they need to which leads to the stress that I experienced yesterday. It is not that I am the only person who can do my job, it is that I am very particular about how my department runs and in what order we approach the process and my priorities are not the same as some of my colleagues and therefore some of the things I find MOST important fall through the cracks.

When I arrived home last night and tried to relax, it just wasn't happening. I took Miss Harley out for her walk and as is my practice I reviewed my day and looked for gratitude moments; it was like running into a wall. I could not focus my mind and get to that place I need to be in order to really feel the gratitude. Even as I did my daily ablutions and headed to bed, I could not get my mind settled enough to peacefully sleep. I woke this morning even more tired than I was when I went to bed last night, probably due to tossing and turning and not being able to shut off my mind and relax my body. This not only kicked in my fatigue but also exacerbated my fibromyalgia.

The Mayo Clinic tells us that without managing our stress, our body is always on red alert. I am definitely feeling that this morning. They also tell us (as anyone with a chronic illness can attest) that stress can lead to even more health issues. What they didn't mention was that if we let it grow without finding a way to stopping it, stress can take you back a few steps on the road to peace and gratitude and block you from opening your heart and mind in order to get back on track.

I have spent the morning combing the web for specific techniques to lower the stress I am feeling as well as quotes to shift my mind back to the blessings in my life. I can tell that I am on the right path because I have found things that make me feel both hopeful that they will work and grateful that I have found them.

These are the techniques that I will be putting into practice this morning when I get in:

Effective time management skills can help you identify goals, set priorities and minimize stress in your life. Use these tips to improve your time management skills and lower your stress level.

■Create realistic expectations and deadlines for yourself, and set regular progress reviews.
■Throw away unimportant papers on your desk.
■Prepare a master list of tasks. Throughout the day, scan your master list and work on tasks in priority order.
■Use a planner. Store addresses and telephone numbers there. Copy tasks from your master list onto the page for the day on which you expect to do them. Evaluate and prioritize daily.
■For especially important or difficult projects, reserve an interruption-free block of time behind closed doors.

I found this quote from Melodie Beattie that just went "click" when I read it:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
— Melodie Beattie

If I can reflect on this quote through out the day- I know I will be okay. Specifically the part about turning chaos into order and problems into gifts. If I can focus on that- rather than letting the irritation and impatience I am feeling, I can look at the current situation as an opportunity to educate and share my vision. Just typing this and really reflecting on it has allowed some of the tension to leave my shoulders. That is another sign that I am heading back on track. For that- I can be very grateful.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Attitude Challenge

"I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances."
—Martha Washington

One thing that I keep coming back to when I am having a particularly rough day is the quote above. Mrs. Washington was indeed correct. It doesn't matter if it is raining or sunny out, if you are sore and tired or pain free and full of energy, whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or have a big fat cushion in the bank, if you are happily single or miserably married or vice versa. None of those things will make us happy or miserable. It is only our attitude and outlook toward our lives that will determine how we feel about our lives.

Misery is not a place that I want to be. For me, when I am miserable, the smallest thing can bring me stress. Stress leads to headaches, TMJ issues, lost sleep and has even brought on flares and depression. Knowing myself as I do, I could sit and make a list of all of the not-so-wonderful things in my life. I could start big and keep going until I pick apart every single thing and I am so down that crawling back up would be a monumental task. When I get in a mood like that everything and everyone annoys me. I get snappy and cranky and I am not a nice person to be around. I am sure I drive my poor husband crazy. I know I drive myself crazy when I get into one of these moods. I do not like wallowing in self pity, I do not like having others feel sorry for me, I do not like it when I get to the point that I just want to scream or cry.

In order to turn that around and get myself out of that place, I have created a "challenge" for myself. When I find myself creeping toward the rotten attitude I make myself take whatever it may be that is bothering me and turn it around into something for which to be grateful. Finding something good, finding that silver lining, can be extremely challenging especially when you are already in a mood. If you can do it though not only does it take your mind off of your troubles it also stops the snowball effect of the bad mood and brings you back to a place of gratitude. If you are successful in completing this exercise when you get back to that place of gratitude, you find that a sense of peace has stolen over you and the doldrums have fallen by the wayside.

One example of this challenge would be looking at my coming day. We are on vacation, we have planned on driving to Elizabethtown and Bardstown, KY to tour the Bourbon Trail. We will be touring Jim Beam Distillary, Maker's Mark Distillary, Heaven Hill and a couple others while we learn about the history of bourbon, prohibition in the US, how bourbons are made and aged and what makes each of them unique. Each of the distillaries has tasting rooms and other things to do. As they say- Bardstown and E-town are to Bourbon as Napa Valley is to Wine. We have been looking forward to this for quite some time.

And then I woke up this morning- at 2am not feeling well- and it's raining. The rain means that driving will be miserable and it's going to be all of 43 degrees today (our average temps this time of year is 70's) which means that both my RA and my Fibro are in full effect. Oh and even though I have not had my quarterly alcoholic beverage in anticipation of this trip-I have my every 6 week rheumy appointment is tomorrow and we are doing extra bloodwork because my liver levels are elevated so I can not chance the tasting rooms. Now- I could keep this attitude going all day and let it ruin this trip. I could sulk and complain and bring Jim and Karyn down with me. OR- I could take these things and turn them around. Let's take a look at that:

And then I woke up this morning at 2am, not feeling well but my stomach ache has subsided and I am just left with a big headache. Getting up this early gives me extra time to loosen up my joints and stretch my muscles before we leave and I can sleep in the car and it's raining. The rain means that driving will be miserable but unlike several other areas of the country it is NOT snowing here and I have gloves and jackets to keep me warm. I can also take along some hot hands in case I need them and best of all I AM NOT DRIVING! . and it's going to be all of 43 degrees today (our average temps this time of year is 70's) which means that both my RA and my Fibro are in full effect though I do have a lot of aches and pains today courtesy of the weather- I have not had a full blown flare in quite a while (knock wood) and I doubt this will trigger it. Oh and though I have not had my quarterly alcoholic beverage in anticipation of this trip I have my every 6 week rheumy appointment is tomorrow and we are doing extra bloodwork because my liver levels are elevated so I can not chance the tasting rooms but it does mean that I can take notes and prepare for the next time we are down there and study up to see if I can discern all the notes that they talk about today. Best of all- WE ARE ON VACATION! Even Jim has a day off with pay. We can enjoy one another's company and do this trip and just have fun.

In addition to flipping those "bad" things around I can be so grateful to have this day off with my dear friend and my husband. I can be grateful that we still have 2.5 days together before she flies back home. I can be grateful that my honey likes to drive and therefore I can snooze at will. I can be grateful that both my husband and my friend understand that I deal with physical challenges and if I don't feel up to going in to one of the places today- they will go ahead without me and let me stay in the car and rest. I can be grateful that even after I get back to work on Monday- I have about 4 weeks until my next-total relaxation- vacation. I can be grateful that I get to see my parents this weekend and enjoy time with them before heading back to work.

And just like that the tension is gone and my mood is better. The headache is still there but that is induced by lack of sleep and it will go away once I have some breakfast and a bit of a nap. I do have so much to be grateful for- so much so that it outweighs the things that made me wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. That in itself is a good thing.

"If you look at what you have in life,
You'll always have more.
If you look at what you don't have in life,
You'll never have enough."

—Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I am sitting here now, watch an episode of Oprah that I taped last week.  The episode is on Hoarding.  Now- we are not hoarders- at least not even remotely like these people- but we definitely are clutterbugs and have stuff that we have moved twice now that we will never need.  The timing is ironic because just the other day my honey mentioned that we really needed to tackle some of those boxes and start purging. 

He is right- the next question is- do we sell, freecycle or donate the stuff.  I feel that if we sell it- then I could afford to have a cleaning service come do our carpets (or at minimum rent a steamer ourselves) which would help me a lot.  On the other hand, donating or freecycling would get it out fast before I can change my mind- which I do a LOT when it comes to getting rid of stuff. 

I think I need to- before we tackle that project- re-read my books on simplifying our lives.  I think that if I can do this- IF I can let go of a lot of the "stuff" that is in my walk in closet, then I can let go of other things.  If I can let go of the lot of it- I can take a weight off of my shoulders as I move toward a more simple life.  I think that if I can make an additional move toward simplifying- the rest of my stress will fall to the wayside.  It would be a good thing.

I think this is a message.  The timing, the fact that Jim brought it up now, and that I have the time and resources available to do it is a message from the gods that the time is right to take another big (for me) step and let go of more of the things that I have been holding on to and to move forward.  The next step is to face the closet of doom and actually purge.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Feeling "Normal"

One of the difficult things about having moved half way across the country and entirely changed our life is that, well, we have entirely changed our life.

      I spent many, many (25 many) years in the hospitality industry.  From clerking at a hotel to managing at a hotel front office, from waiting tables, bartending and every other front of the house job in restaurants and nightclubs to managing restaurants and nightclubs, all the way to being a barista in an indie coffee shop and planning and executing functions and events, I have done it.  I loved that business.  It is crazy, hectic, run your a$$ off for your money and hugely profitable if you take pride in your job and do your best to service your customers.  Because it is also very, very physical it is one area of my life that I have allowed my diagnosis to "steal" from me.  I just can't do it any more.  I am aware of that, and I am at peace with that.  It doesn't make me miss it any less.  It was just fun.  Thinking back, I can't think of any restaurant, hotel or coffee bar that I worked in that I didn't make great friends and have a good time while I worked. 

     One of the other great aspects of that industry is the social aspect.   More than hotels or coffee shops, restaurants and nightclub staffs are like big, incestuous familys.  The staff works together, plays together, dates one another, marries one another etc.  You get out of work after a long and stressful shift, you gather around the bar and sit and gripe about work, about customers, about tips.  You dissect the shift, the staff,  and the upcoming events.  You share war stories and funny stories, you get to know one another and air your differences all before heading your seperate ways. 

     When we moved out this way, we completely cut ourselves off from all of that.  In addition to having left everything and everyone familiar, we added Methotrexate to my treatment regimine which means that (by choice- my liver is more important than a social life) I have almost completely removed alcohol from my life.  Where before I would have an ammaretto or a beer after work a couple of times a week and we would get together with friends for dinner and drinks on a night off- I now limit myself to 3-4 drinks per year.  That is all.  My very supportive other half has no problem with this change and though I have no issue with him having a couple of beers when we go out for dinner, he goes bowling or we go out for a night, it is very, very rare for us to go out to a bar and see a band or hear a DJ any longer.  It is just not the same.   Because we haven't cultivated the close friends that we have had, we just don't "go out" any more. 

      One of my dearest friends is in town to visit for a week.  Last night, we went out for dinner (Famous Dave's- KILLER BBQ) and then to Howl at the Moon in Louisville.  Having our dear friend with us made a huge difference.   I played designated driver for the two of them- which was absolutely no problem for me or for them.  The difference is that there is something a lot less socially acceptable about being a designated driver in a party of two- I mean, how does that sound?  The other part of that is that when it is just the two of us, it is more glaring (to me at least) and makes me more self concious that I am sitting in a nightclub or bar with a coffee or a soda.  In my brain it puts more emphasis on the changes to both of our lives that Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and my host of medications have wrought- even though before I often had a coffee or a soda when we went out anyway- but then it was a CHOICE.  With the three of us being together my honey was able to relax and have a few beers and not feel like he was "drinking alone" and I was able to cut loose and not feel like the "sick chick" while we were out.    If you don't have an "Howl" in your area- it is a deuling piano bar.  Besides having pianists on stage- a big part of the evening is audience participation. We had a ball.  The three of us laughed (well), sang (not so well) and generally cut loose.  We talked, we caught up and we really relaxed.  We got home about 10:30 and stayed up and laughed even more.

                                          Karyn                       Jim                       Moi

While I am SO very grateful that I have my dear friend for a week  I also realized something last night.  I realized that we need to break out of our nest and get out there and meet some people from this area.  We need to stop holding ourselves back and open up to new people.  I, personally, need to get over myself and my trepidation and let go.  We also need to realign our thinking and get it through our heads that "going out" doesn't have to mean starting the evening between 8 and 9pm to have as much fun as we had last night.  That is a huge shift- and it was a great lesson to learn. 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Holding Hands

Recently my mom and I got into a conversation about public displays of affection. She and Dad had been in Vegas and the City of Sin had had a lot of PDA going on. Now, we are an incredibly affectionate family. Hugs, kisses, "I love yous", are all part of our interactions. We use our hands to illustrate when we are talking as well as to touch the person we are talking to. Even for us there is a line though and evidently the line had been crossed often while Mom and Dad were in Las Vegas. This discussion lead me to ruminate on how Jim and I's relationship has progressed as evidenced by the progression of our own PDA.

Twenty-five years ago, when we first started dating, we were constantly in one another's hip pocket-literally. Smooching in between classes, walking with our arms around one another hands in each other's jeans pockets. When we were young and married it was still arms around one another but the "need" for constant touching cooled a bit-plus there was a little one in the mix. As we got older it was if we spread out a bit. From X in high school to }{ as young marrieds to \_/ as adults. In the car or walking down the street or even sitting at the movies or watching tv- we automatically clasped hands as if to maintain contact. I After 20 years of marriage, it was still automatic. I can't tell you how many times we heard comments about how "cute" it was that we still held hands after so long. Fortunately, our son takes his cues from the rest of the family and for him too it is not something you think about, just something you do. From two to twenty-two with no stops in between Josh has held my, his grandmothers, even his aunts (on my side) hand as well as hugged, kissed etc his family. Watching my friends children grow up and go through the "don't touch me" and "parents embarrass me" stages- I know exactly how blessed we are to have never have had that challenge with our "baby" :-)

When I was talking to Mom about this, I realized that we have adapted as our lives changed through the years and even now it still is. There was a time when I was first diagnosed that just the thought of having my hands touched would make me cry. It was very rough in the beginning because Jim would automatically grab my hand and I would stop still and pull away. This lead to upset feelings on both sides. Of course with Rheumatoid Arthritis we have our good days and our bad days in terms of the amount of pain in our limbs and often our partners don't know what our pain level is for the day. With Jim and I- our connection is too important for us to just let it go so we have found a way to make it work without performing a medical check each time. Without ever really discussing it we have transitioned to a less painful solution. Rather than taking my whole hand, Jim will hook a pinky on mine. If I am having a good hand day, we slide over into full hand contact, if not, the pinky will suffice.

Until my mom and I had this discussion, neither of us ever talked about it or even thought about it. It was just a way that we show our affection to one another, a way that we keep close without verbal cues. I never thought about the way we have transitioned over the years to accomodate our life changes. Now that we have dissected it, it has become almost an inside thing with us. As soon as we realize we have done this, we look at one another and just smile. So if you see the early 40's 6'4" thin man and the 5'0 not so thin woman strolling along holding hands- give them a smile- it just could be us.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sleepus Interruptus

It is funny how, now that I have the time to get some sleep, I still don't often get a full night. Tonight, I dropped off late- most assuredly because I rested from 4-6. I didn't nap but I laid in my bed and read until I was recharged. We are having some big storms in the area and Miss Dog was tweeking out courtesy of the wind rattling the windows in the living room and I think she thought someone was trying to get in as she kept barking at the windows. I tried to ignore it- as did my honey- but it just wasn't happening. Jim went down and got the dog and brought her up to the bed where she promptly curled her little body up to me. She wasn't too please when I started moving around. I was very sore and needed to get the kinks out and Jim wasn't going back to sleep either. When he finally gave up and flipped on the light- he got a good laugh because I looked like I was doing yoga as I knealt on the bed with my head down trying desperately to stretch my back. I cannot tell you how many times I end up doing this in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.

Now, if it were just my back- I would have replaced my mattress by now but it is not, it was most assuredly an RA/Fibro moment. Shoulders, hips, knees, whatever. If there is a joint with a muscle connected- it has given me trouble at some point. I have even fallen asleep with a hand or leg straight up in the air as I try to find a comfortable position- only to wake back up as the limb hits the mattress. Sadly- it usually amuses me knowing what it would have looked like could anyone see me.

The good thing- the thing I am grateful for today- is that since I am on my vacation I can sleep later today after my poor husband goes to work. He stayed up with us until about four and then went back up to try and catch a few more winks before he has to get up at 5:20. I hope he was able to do so and if not, well- I am not adverse to him napping when he gets home. It is his night to make dinner, but I can take that on this evening so he can rest.

As I type this, I am struck again at how blessed I am that we can still work together so well after 25 years of togetherness. There are folks that I know who would be....pissy for lack of a better word, if their "partner" came home and didn't feel up to doing their share, but fortunately neither of us have that happen too often. Goodness knows he steps in when I need down time because of pain or fatigue- it's the least I can do to step in when he needs it. I think I may start dinner early so that if I am tired as well when he comes home we can nap together and eat whenever. Thank goodness for crockpots! :-D

Time to go look and see what we have in the freezer that I can turn into something delectable and crockpot ready for dinner. Another thank goodness for the fact that the storms will be moving out during the day today and when we wake up tomorrow- we will not only be picking my friend up from the airport- but we will be doing so with a gorgeous Saturday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vacation and Friends

Two quotes to start this morning's post:

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.
-- Bernard Meltzer

And also:

The ideal friendship is to feel as one while remaining two.
-- Anne Sophie Swetchine

I have officially been on vacation as of 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Of course, starting my vacation in an Enbrel haze required me to sleep early last night. That means that I am considering my vacation starting this morning with a clear head. I am sure some of you can relate.

This vacation is special because my best girlfriend is coming to visit for a week on Saturday. She is flying in from my old life. Though there are many things I do NOT miss about New England- the people do not belong on that list. I had some very wonderful people in my life back there. Leaving them behind was heartbreaking but it needed to be done in order to acheive the peace I have found and continue to find. Fortunately, many of them I have kept in touch with through phone calls, emails, facebook, and other means. I have also been able- through those same means- to renew friendships that go back to the early 80's. What a blessing that has been!

Friends- be they next door, on-line or however you maintain the relationships can be the most important lifeline you have outside your family. And spending a vacation with one- just makes it all wonderful.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just a Quickie :-)

I am battling a cold and fighting so it doesn't become the flu. Today I am grateful for a very short work week. Just today and tomorrow- and then I am on vacation until the 19th. I am not going anywhere exciting, one of my dear friends is flying in to stay for the week and we will just do things in and around Louisville. We will talk, we will relax, we will just enjoy one another's company. I cannot wait. My poor husband will be ganged up on for the week- and he too is looking forward to it-lol.

Now- I am off to to work to get started on getting finished with my tiny work week! Have a wonderful day all!

Monday, October 5, 2009

NEW Important links for those of us living with Chronic Illnesses

I have shared in previous posts links to blogs and specific posts that are particularly important to me. Today I have three new posts that I want to share.

The first comes from one of my favorites- RA Guy. I am grateful for this post today because it can give us perspective and strength whether we are mid-flare or just having a rough day emotionally dealing with our illness:
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy, during his more difficult periods of living with rheumatoid arthritis, is often surprised by the comments and messages her receives from people who thank him for the optimistic attitude of living with RA that he shares here on this blog. Sometimes, when my challenges are big, I do not always recognize that sense of positive thinking and optimism within myself…so it is nice to be reminded by others that they are indeed present and visible.

When I am going through a particularly difficult flare, my cone of focus becomes just a tad bit smaller. World news events are forgotten…which is sometimes a good thing because they can be so depressing at times. Being the eternal optimist, I recognize the good that results from my moments of mental fog, of forgetfulness, and of feeling that once again I am walking on the rim of the canyon that hovers above deep depression. What is the good result of the above items that are often considered to be elements that should remain outside of our lives? For me, these periods force me to turn inwards, to get to know myself a little better.

To use this most recent occurrence of pain and disability to move myself one step forward towards a better place, despite the fact that my body seems to be moving towards a worse place – if I continue to implement this as one of my guiding principles, I feel full of hope, ready to deal with any problem that life presents to me or with any disability that my body presents to me.

I have noticed that after dealing with a flare for a couple of weeks – normally around the time when in the past I used to feel like throwing in the towel and losing hope – I now feel the exact opposite. I feel like a wind (I don’t know where it comes from, to be honest) fills my sails and propels me forward to a place that I may not yet understand, but which I know is a positive and healing place for me at this point of my life. Normally, the first burst forward involves my emotions and my mental state of being, and then is followed by a similar burst forward in my physical condition.

This past weekend, I had that first burst – and a little bit of the second burst. Instead of filling my mind with thoughts such as “how long will this last?” or “I hope my excruciating pain does not come back”, I instead decided to use my clear mind to think about what I have just gone though once again, about what I have learned, and how I can take that next step forward which will help me next time I undoubtedly go through another rough period.

I found myself creating a list…a list of aspects of living with rheumatoid arthritis that are usually (at least for me) regarded as some of the most negative aspects of living with RA. Knowing that I have experienced them many times in the past, and that I will experience those many more times in the future, I thought it would be fun to see what positive and optimistic – yet realistic – spin I could place on these “challenges”.
To read the rest of this post (and you should) follow this link

The second post comes from the always inspirational Single Gal's Guide to RA. I am going to lead you to the blog and you can follow the links to her WEBMD TV spots from there. There are four in all. Sara, like a growing number of us, is of the mindset that we LIVE WITH, not suffer from RA. Her webmd spots are insightful and articulate. Sara gives a face and voice to all of us who live with a chronic illness.

The third and final post today comes from our own RA Warrior. Kelly has come up with a primer for those who are looking for answers as to what exactly Rheumatoid Arthritis is. Her RA 101is straightforward, layman friendly and told from an insider's point of view. Like RA Guy's 60 Second Guide, Kelly's RA 101 is a resource for the newly diagnosed as well as for thier friends and family who want to learn more about the disease they are facing.

I am eternally grateful for each of these posts and people. Their humor, their dedication, their perspectives and their attitude all keep me going and bring me up when I am down, they keep me grounded when I feel my world tilting and they work hard to get the facts out there in ways that anyone and everyone can understand. I had a discussion on twitter the other day with RA Warrior about celebs taking up our cause- and she said "we will have to be our own celebrities for now." These three are definitely our RA Rockstars.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, Sunday

Do not let Sunday be taken from you. If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan.
Albert Schweitzer

Do you know those moments when you look back and want to kick yourself right in the butt? Or smack yourself upside the head and say "What in the world were you thinking?" That is me, when I look at the over 600 Sundays in my life that I wasted. Okay- they weren't exactly "wasted" but they were definitely NOT used for what they should have been.

I try- very hard- to live my life with no regrets. I try to take my mistakes and learn from them. Rather than regret the Sundays I have lost, I try to make the most of the ones I have left. I look at my Sundays now and I guard them as if they were precious gems. I have a full day to rest, relax and recouperate. I have a day to spend with my husband, our pup and at times my parents. I can choose to go back to bed after I walk Miss Dog, or stay up and do housework. I can sit in front of the tele vegging, or I can do something industrious. Best of all, I can and do, spend time reflecting on all of my blessings. Whether I attend church with Mom and Dad or I spend time driving back home or just the whole day at home, I tend to my spirit, my soul. I spend time when possible outside marveling at the beauty that surrounds me. I spend time giving thanks. I spend time looking inside myself. I spend time enjoying the silence. The only one thing that would make my Sundays perfect would be to have Josh with us- but then, that would make every day better.

Today, I am reflect on this:

It's hard to accept, but you can't change the past. You can't go back and manipulate things to the way you wanted them to happen. Because life'd be meaningless and boring and just not worth living. But you can change the future and that's a beautiful thing about life. Yes, you will make mistakes. And yes, you will have bad days - but as long as you let the past go, you'll have such a gorgeous and bright future ahead of you. Knowing that things were meant to happen. Knowing that each day you will learn something so that you keep growing to be a better person. Life is like a rope, twined in all its complexities and yet weaved into one marvelous stream that you have the chance you use something amazing from. So grab hold of it.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Night Sky

"The feeling of love is the same feeling that you get when you stare into the moon on a clear night.”

Moonlight is sculpture; sunlight is painting.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864)
Source: The Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Last night was a full moon. The stars were shining like beacons in the sky. There were blocks of clouds floating through, but they only added to the overall picture. One of the things I have learned on this journey is that there is a HUGE world out there and we are pretty tiny parts of it.

One thing that I have learned to REALLY enjoy- and this may sound silly- is to stop during Harley's and my evening walks at the park, sit on a swing, get it moving and just look up at the sky. It has a tri-fold benefit. First, I loved to swing when I was a kid. I had forgotten that. I had gotten so caught up in the "grown up" world that I had forgotten how freeing it is just to sit on that swing and go. Back and forth, back and forth- no worries, just freedom. Flying through the air if only for a few minutes. Second, just looking up at the stars, the moon, the clouds, the sky in its various hues serves to remind me that NOTHING is as big as it feels. When I feel overwhelmed, I just need to look up and realize that though my issues and problems may FEEL big- comparatively, not so much. Finally, when I am feeling lonely, when I miss my son, my sisters, my friends, I can look up at that beautiful sky and know that if they are looking up- they see the same thing so even though we are far apart- we are essentially in the same place.

I am so grateful that I have discovered this connection, that each and every night I can look up and see these things. That I have become mesmerized by the sky and know what it means for me. That I have begun to rediscover the joys I felt as a child with something so simple as a swing.