Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting to Gratitude- The Beginning of my Journey

The Beginning of my Journey-

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introducing "Getting to Gratitude"- A Six Part Series

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

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

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

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

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A few of my favorite things

Good morning all,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**Recommended Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

I made it!

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh Thank GOODNESS for small miracles.

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

Picture this:

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There's nothing like a little productivity

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Riding the Roller Coaster

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

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

     Here is my game plan: 

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

Can we be grateful for pain?

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

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

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

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celebrating the small things

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

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

Some examples of things I am celebrating today?

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

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

Saturday, November 7, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

Finding friends in unusual places.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Positivity and Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Thurber said:

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

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2009

Changing Patterns

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

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

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