Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Happiness Challenge 2011

So I just joined Gretchen Ruben's Happiness Challenge for 2011. I think this will be another tool to keep me on the positivity track for the coming year. If you are interested- details can be found here:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winning Outcomes for the New Year

Last night at Weight Watchers we talked about "Winning Outcomes."  Essentially- goal setting.  The key to what our leader said for me was "When you make your goals, when you make your New Years Resolutions- are you setting yourself up to win or do you, almost as soon as it comes out of your mouth, think Can I REALLY do this?"  She then spent the next bit of time teaching us to reframe the way we approach our goals.  A few examples:

Rather than saying "I am giving up chocolate." (really?  You are GIVING UP chocolate?  How long will THAT last?) why not say, "As long as I stay on plan I can have XXX amount of chocolate a week." ?

Rather than saying "I am tired of being overweight- I am going on a diet."  Why not think "I am going to change the way I eat so that I can shed X number of pounds and more importantly, become more healthy."?

Rather than " I am going to the gym every single day."  How about " I will exercise for 30 minutes on Mondays and Wednesday."

It's all about resetting your mind to something that is achievable, reasonable and fits within your life.  More importantly- it's about looking at it from a positive place rather than "I hate this about myself so I need to change it."

Of course- that means that I have to stop and rethink my resolutions and retrain the brain- but it was a good and timely lesson so I wanted to share it.

I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful New Year's Eve and a bright outlook for 2011.  I will see you then and hopefully by then I will have my goals set for the coming year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why I say "Happy Holidays"

There's a big "controversy" about the use of "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" every year.  Some say it's because we have gotten too PC, some claim that they are "Taking Christmas BACK!".  Me- I am afraid that I don't fall into either of those camps.   Here's how I see it.

The world is not all about me.  Yes, I said it- IT'S. NOT. ALL. ABOUT. ME.  Coming from an admitted Princess/Diva- that may shock some- but I am secure enough in my "Princesshood" to know that it's true.  Does anyone care WHAT holiday I celebrate?  Does the guy at the grocery store who grumbled "It's MERRY CHRISTMAS" when I said "Have a very nice holiday" know if I celebrate Christmas?  Or Yule?  Or Hanukkah?  or Kwanzaa?  I sincerely doubt it.  I wonder what he would have had to say if I had said "Perhaps that's YOUR holiday- but it may not be mine!" in return for his grouchy remark. No matter what I celebrate- it's people like him- who seem to be becoming more vocal- that make me want to not even extend well wishes during the season.

When I wish someone a Happy Holiday- I am not making any assumptions about their holiday of choice.  I am merely, sincerely, wishing them just that.  I am hoping that whatever holiday they and their family choose to observe is happy, healthy and safe.  There is no ill intent.  I am not out to steal any one's Christmas.  I want them to have a happy holiday.  Simple as that.  If they choose to read something into that- well, it's their loss.  I refuse to allow it to put a damper on my spirits any longer.  They can take my well wishes or discard them, no skin off my nose.

Now, I am off to celebrate the birth of someone very special this Christmas Eve- my Mama.  So I will leave you with this thought that I just closed out my facebook with:

The holidays are all about family. Family is not only those you were born with or married into but those you choose to allow into your heart. Happy, Happy (and safe) holidays to all of my family. You are each a blessing in my life and I am grateful for you. ♥

Sunday, December 19, 2010


It's just after 4am as I begin to write this.  I have been up since 2:45 when a deer decided that the tree line between our buildings and the houses behind us would be a terrific place for a walk.  We still have ice everywhere from the storm last Wednesday/Thursday and as it ambled through it was cracking through the ice with each step which sent our little Harley girl into fits.  I swear she heard it a block away.  I am not surprised as each time WE step out on the ice to take the dogs for their walk the German Shepherd down the block hears the four of us and goes into a frenzy.  Add to the fact that there is NO ONE out in the middle of the night- no traffic, no people- and you get major reverberation of sound.  Of course- she couldn't go it alone.  She had to get Auggie all wired up to go with her.  It took about a half an hour for them to settle down and really get that they had "scared" the deer away and now they are back snoring while I sit here, coffee in one hand, remote in the other, flipping channels till the world comes awake and I can go into work for a few hours.

Sounds like an aberration, right?  Not so much.  It took me half of forever to get to sleep.  I just couldn't get comfortable.  Then Miss Dog decided she needed to be up on the bed- which I can *almost* do in my sleep but is just enough of an interruption to make me realize that sleep has stopped.  Neither of those things- or the fact that I am up pre-3am- are unusual any more.  It is more unusual when I actually sleep for 6 consecutive hours.

I am trying- really trying to find something to be grateful for in the insomnia.  Something positive.  I guess I can  be happy that my DVR is empty-lol.  I can be grateful that my laundry is sort of caught up (still gotta fold it).  I can be grateful that I haven't had the urge to dive head first into my chocolate stash.  I can be grateful that now that hubbs is up- I can get working on dinner.  I only wish I could-when I wake up and can't get back to sleep- be either pain free or coherent enough to get some writing done. Together they are a double whammy of royal pain in the butt.   Oh well- it usually only goes on for a couple of months and then I sleep again.  Let's just hope it gets me through the next rush before I turn into a sleeping vegetable.  :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

We can always be thankful for our guilty pleasures. You know-those things that we indulge in on occasion and we know that we shouldn't  enjoy as much as you do, but really you can't help yourself. Having taken today off to just unwind I have been indulging in mine most of the day.   Here's a small list of my guilty pleasures:

  • Christmas Movies- I have watched a TON of them on the Hallmark Channel this month- I giggle, I cry (a lot) and no matter how sappy- I DVR and then watch as many as I can.
  • Tough Chick music- I usually listen to country music but I have a whole stash of Avril, P!NK and Katy Perry.  Don't tell anyone- but I also have the entire soundtrack to RENT which I could play all day and never get tired of listening.
  • Fun Reality shows of sorts- Iron Chef America, Top Chef (all three versions), Project Runway, Survivor, Inside the Actor's Studio, Undercover Boss, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Oprah's Big Give, Jaimie Oliver's Food Revolution.  Now- I don't like the "too much drama" shows (Housewives, Jersey Shores, pregnant teenagers) or the shows where the protagonist is screaming at people (Hell's Kitchen, Flipping Out) all of those make me kinda gag- but the ones that are done well are just delicious.  
  • Naps- there is just nothing better than a nice long mid-afternoon nap.  
  • Literary Vampire Series turned TV shows/Movies- Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries- yes, the market is glutted with other stuff but these series all have characters that you can sink your teeth into (pun intended).  Even Bram Stoker's Dracula and Anne Rice's Lestat Series fit in there.  
So thats a small portion of my list- what about you?  What are your guilty pleasures?  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

Though I wouldn't say I "wished" for snow- boy is it here.  It's cold- bitterly cold.  The temperature is 21 but when you add in the wind chill we are looking at low single digits.  We have been in a "Winter Weather Advisory" until 1pm and I am up watching the news to see the snow cancellations (160 and counting) since Auggie was whining to get up on my bed at 3am.  Of course- we are not closed- on the very slim chance we will close it won't happen until around 6am.  It's funny.  It seems as if each of the colleges waits to see what the other schools will do before they make up their minds.  I have very little chance of having a "snow day" because finals are over and so it's only the staff and administration who would be going in to the school this morning but I enjoy seeing the list grow longer and longer because that means that there will be that many less people on the roads when I go in a few hours from now.  It's not the amount of snow that is the issue for us, rather it is the up to 35mph winds that will is blowing the snow and reducing visibility and the black ice thanks to the rain before temps dropped.  I don't relish having to clean off my car to go to work though.  I haven't yet stocked up on my "hot hands" so it will be very unfriendly to my hands.  I think I will pack two thermoses so that I can warm us sufficiently when I get there.

The next few weeks will be crazy.  In my work cycle we essentially have about three weeks to do all of the work that we do over the summer.  That means that weekends are no longer my own and that I will be running on fumes by mid January when the craziness is all over.  To that end I have stocked up on good fruits and veggies and last night made my first of many batches of Irish Oatmeal.  The house smells wonderful because when I begin the process I add cinnamon, nutmeg and a bit of brown sugar to the water and as it boils the house smells like snickerdoodles.  In an hour or so, when I start getting ready for work, I will portion out the oatmeal and then some fresh blueberries to add after I reheat it at work.  Just thinking about it and smelling it makes my mouth water.  I am pretty darned grateful that I learned of the steel cut oats because it just sticks to your ribs so much better than regular rolled oats.

I really, really need to get back to blogging more regularly.  I didn't realize until this time period how much it helps me focus and keeps me on the path to gratitude and positivity.  I think I will go back to carrying my little notepad in my purse so that I can jot down things that I want to acknowledge as they happen or as I see them.  That too helps me step back and look at things from a positive angle.

I think that my next wish- being careful with this one- will be to get through this next month intact and to get back on track in all areas.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Snow of the Season

I do not, as a rule, like snow at all.  That said there is something intrinsically beautiful about the first snow of the season- especially when it happens over a weekend.  Late Friday night it started to snow in our area, light squalls- just enough to cover the ground and make Harley and Auggie curious.  The weather was all over the place- I had quite a bit of work to do so I ran into work just when it started to sleet.  By the time I left work a few hours later- it was misting rain- just enough to clear away all the white stuff that was on the ground and clear the roads.

I still have a bit of shopping to do so I dragged the hubby out to get working on some of it (one more stop today and I will be very close to done) and by the time we got out of there, there were big fat flakes flying everywhere.  It really was beautiful, like living inside a snow globe that was just shaken.  People in my area aren't very confident on the road in the snow so fortunately we were close to home and had nothing else that was pressing so we were able to go home and snuggle in for the night.

Today- the ground is covered with big, fluffy snow.  Only about an inch but enough to look pretty. It's covering the trees and shrubs, the rooftops and everything in between. The dogs have been out playing in the new white stuff on the ground.  Auggie is so funny, he picks it up in his mouth and throws it up in the air and runs at it like he does his ball. He nuzzles it at Harley as if he were throwing it at her and she just watches him patiently as if she's saying "Idiot kid".  They go out and play for a bit and then realize they are cold and run back to warm up on the couch.  It's as if I have a couple of small children, minus the layers of clothes to put on and take off each time they go in and out.

By tomorrow it will be slushy and muddy and the snow will be back to the snow that I am not so fond of- but today, today I can just enjoy the beauty of it.  Between that and the holiday movies on Hallmark Channel- it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Be the change?

 "Be the change you wish to see in this world."  Ghandi

I love this quote.  It is so very simple and yet so very all encompassing.  This afternoon, I bought one of those "wall art" sticker thingies that says exactly that and I have placed it within sight of where I sit as I write this.  Tonight, as I sit and sip cappuccino at my desk I am pondering this quote and how I can take it and apply it to my life.  

I am hoping that I can take it and use it for my health in general, and my weight loss efforts specifically.  I am hoping I can use it for my relationships and in my work.  I am hoping I can find a way to get my own life to where I would like it to be and then take it further and use it in my community.  I think I will make it my new goal:

Be the change.  Small or big- be that change.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

In honor of Thanksgiving- which I hope that you are all enjoying today with your families- I need to get my own list of things that I am thankful for out here. 

1-  My husband and son.  We all know I am nuts about both of them, but I am also incredibly grateful for both of them.  They are good men and I love them dearly. 

2- My family.  I have both of my parents, two sisters by blood and one by heart, their spouses,and assorted neices and nephews (9 now!) that are all wonderful.  I am so blessed that we all get along as well as we do and that we genuinely like one another.

3-  My inlaws.  Marrying my honey over 24 years ago gave me the gift of his parents and his siblings as well. 

4- My dear friends- who are also family.  Our circle of friends are the family of my heart and I am grateful every day- whether I get to talk to them or not- for having them in my life. 

5- My RA "Family".  Those of you that are with me in this battle day in/day out and share your stories- you give me hope, you give me strength and you strengthen my faith.  I am so very grateful for each and every one of you.

I was listening to Dr. Maya Angelou on Oprah Radio (for which I am also grateful) this morning and she said that she gives thanks constantly- for everything great and small.  Everything from waking up every morning to finding a good parking space.  It keeps her in a gratitude mind.  I think I am going to try that for a while.  I think it will help me as well. 

Happy Thanksgiving my friends!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis Un-Awareness?

**Disclaimer**  This is an opinion piece.  The opinions expressed are soley mine culled from my experience living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. 

When asked why it is that we need to campaign for awareness, the answer is twofold.  The easy answer is that the research into causes, disease progression, treatments and (dare I say it?) cures is woefully underfunded.  Without awareness we will not get the funding that is so desperately needed. 

On the more personal front, from the front lines the lack of awareness does more damage to the patient than just the funding issues.  It damages us emotionally, it adds stress to our lives and diminishes the pain that we live with on a daily basis.  So what are the roadblocks that we run into in our road to awareness? 

  • What's in a name?  Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Let's be honest here.  The Rheumatoid gets lost and all anyone sees or hears is "Arthritis".  I did it when I was diagnosed.  My first thought when it came out of my Nurse Practitioner's mouth was "I am not old enough to have ARTHRITIS!" There's nothing catchy, nothing "sexy" about being associated with a very well known condition that our grandparents get.  The suggested alternatives are too...umbrella to me.  Rheumatic Disease?  Autoimmune Disease?  There are hundreds of both.  We need something that is unique to our situation.  I feel that that universal knee jerk reaction to is why our "celebrity" RA patients aren't vocal about their disease.  Who wants to be associated with something that is for "old people"?  These people are in a career that values youth.  Look at Kathleen Turner.  She allowed the tabloids to broadcast that she had substance abuse problems rather than coming out and saying that she was fighting RA.  While I shake my head at that thinking, I can also see why, when known as a sex symbol, she would not want to be associated with the word "Arthritis". 
  • The invisibility factor.  Until such time as we have had significant damage, you can't SEE Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I have been diagnosed for 5 years now.  Visibly, the only physical damage you can see is that my pinkies no longer straighten and two of my toes on each foot are turning out.  Who looks at that?  I see it because it is me and my own vanity but no one who meets me would notice unless I pointed it out.  I walk differently- I have a bit of a wobble these days and my balance is not fabulous, but again- just meeting me you would not know that it hasn't always been that way.  To my own detriment I only use my cane, or my braces when I have to do so.  Again with the vanity thing but also because I tend to power through anything tough in my life.  It's my own way to deal but even if I do use my mobility aids, people assume that I have been injured and I don't always have the time to give an adequate explaination. 
  • The judgement issue.  Judgement comes in many, many forms.  My husband and I have handicap plates on our vehicles because of my RA.  Grocery shopping- which I love- can be very tiring and often makes my hips feel like hot pokers are being stabbed into them.  When I am shopping, I use the cart to maintain my balance and to lean on as needed but no one can see the pain that I am in, because of this I have been on the receiving end of a multitude of filthy looks and snide remarks for having the nerve to use my plate for handicap parking.  At first it bothered me, but these days I just let it go.  I am not the only one who has dealt with this.  A lot of RA'ers report the same issue.  When it comes to work, there are days when I am ready to take on the world and days when just getting out of bed is a struggle.  When I have one of those days I try to be honest with my colleagues and let them know so that they can understand why I am doing tasks that involve sitting more than standing and so far it has worked for me. I am also fortunate (?) enough that my boss also has RA and therefore she completely understands.  A lot of RA'ers do not tell their employers about their condition because they do not want to be seen as "disabled" and that can lead to charges of malingering and brings on a whole host of issues as colleagues assume that you are being "lazy".   Taking days off when you are in the middle of a flare only adds to this because we "don't look sick". 
  • Health care ignorance.  I have been fortunate enough to find terrific doctors in my journey so I have not run into this personally but many folks with chronic pain report that they have been accused of seeking drugs or having their pain be all in their heads by health care providers.  How completely demoralizing must it be to have the people who are supposed to partner with you to care for you treat you in such a manner?  If your doctor (nurse, specialist etc) doesn't believe in you, why in the world would you publisize your disease?  I wonder if these doctors realize how far they are setting our awareness back through their unkind treatment of their patients?  I wonder if they care? 
These are the major points that I feel are roadblocks in raising awareness for Rheumatoid Arthritis.  My friend Kelly, the RAWarrior, has done a wonderful job of giving you well thought out research on our awareness issues- I hope that you will stop by her blog (linked in my title) and read the other side of this issue. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I am not sure what's going on with me these days, but I am feeling very unsettled.  My other half and I have hit a rough patch.  It's not the first time, I am sure it won't be the last, and normally I take these things in stride but this time it has really thrown me.  That's definitely not the whole of the issue- but a piece. 

I think another peice is that my sleep cycle is completely off.  I either sleep a whole lot- or very, very little.  Lack of sleep makes me crabby and emotional.  I could cry at the drop of a hat- but I don't because it would solve nothing except making me feel weak- which would make me crabby and emotional.  See the cycle?  Now- I am not against tears.  I cry at movies and hallmark commercials- I cry when I am sad.  Somehow this just seems irrational to be so emotional over missed sleep.  It's a me thing I think. 

Next there is stuff going on at work.  Sales are not what I would like and that means cutting back where we can.  That said, there are more iniatives rolling out and I feel like it is piling up.  I understand that in this economy we are so very lucky to be doing as well as we are and that we have to be fiscally responsible, I really do.  I understand that we need the new ideas and programs to keep the business fresh.  We can't afford to become stagnate.  On the other hand- it takes a LOT of work to do what we are doing and it will take a lot more to roll out all of the new stuff and do it right if we want to succeed.  I can't speak for my colleagues but I feel like I am trying to do more and more with less and I am wondering where my breaking point will be.  I think I am dealing with a little burnout- and I need to find a way to reverse that before I burn out any further.  Top that with the pressure of trying to not leave ANYTHING to chance so I can comfortably take time while my son is here to spend with him and I am pushing myself as much as possible. 

When I push myself and when I am overly emotional- my meals schedule gets thrown off and I don't make the best choices.  That means that my weightloss efforts have stalled.  I am literally fluctuating +/- 2lbs every week.  As much as I try to do the right thing- I falter mindlessly.  I will literally be running around and grab something and look down and realize it is gone and not feel like I have eaten- or worse- realize that I have grabbed a chocolate bar rather than a protein bar and stuffed it in my face.  It is completely on me.  I know that.  I cannot just allow myself to eat on autopilot and I know that.  That makes me kick myself -hard- which just adds to the emotional mess. 

The icing on my cake is my health.  I am feeling *okay*.  The pain and stiffness is at a bearable point.  I am not flaring with the RA or the Fibro.  I am at a midpoint I believe.  I am not as well as I was with the MTX but not as bad as with some previous treatments.  We are giving the Orencia three more months, we are stepping down the prednisone to find the lowest dose I can take without raising the pain levels.  We have added a giant NSAID twice a day to combat the swelling and once it kicks in I will step back the Tramadol.  But I think the med changes are messing with my system in more ways than one. 

So there I am- I am needing to take some time and pull myself together.  I am going to step back and do some soul searching and get myself back on track.  I ask that you bear with me.  When I come back- I will be better than ever.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My "baby" is coming to visit

     It is so very hard to live 1000 (and 63) miles from my one and only child.  I miss him every single day.  I am very fortunate that we are close enough that if we go two to three days without talking on the phone, it's a big deal.  When we moved out here almost 3 1/2 years ago, he was 19 at the time and chose to stay behind because he had a girlfriend, a job, and had been teaching at his karate school for years and didn't want to give all of that up.  While we understood- both his father and I wish desperately that he had come with us. 

     A lot has changed for him in the last three years- but he is still not ready to leave New England.  Being an only child, we have been a little....indulgent with him.  He has had it pretty easy, even when it should have been tough.  Because he came to expect this, we have had to employ a little tough love as time has gone by to help him understand that if he wants to be the adult, he has to take responsibility for his choices and his actions.   We had a bit of an issue back near his birthday because all of his cousins were to supposed to be coming to visit this summer so we offered him a plane ticket so he could be here with all of them.  He turned us down because he had other priorities.  We were a little bit hurt- okay- a lot hurt- as it had been since we lost my mother-in-law over a year ago that we have seen him.  About a month and a half ago, he found out that someone that he very much respects and admires is teaching a seminar in my parent's town next month.  He called and asked if we would buy him a plane ticket to the seminar for Christmas.  I hesitated and his father flat out said NO.  My honey said that if he wanted to come, he would have to save the money and buy his own ticket.  We can drive him back and forth the hundred miles each way to the seminar, we can take vacation time so he can visit with us and with his grandparents, we will be thrilled to have him- but he has to learn that choices have consequences and buying his own ticket is one of them.  I stand behind my honey on this one.  As much as I wanted to have him here- my honey is right.  So we gambled- and this time we won!  Last night, he booked his plane ticket and will be here for 6 days with us. 

I cannot tell you how grateful that I am that he is coming.  I refused to allow myself to get excited before the tickets were booked but now I am over the moon.  I can't wait to spend some time with him.  I can't wait to hug his neck.   I absolutely adore my son (even when I don't agree with his choices) and will take any time that I can get with him. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pain and Fatigue Management on World Arthritis Day

Today is World Arthritis Day.  In honor of the event, I wanted to share a few of the ways that I manage my own pain that comes from RA and Fibro.  We all know that no matter what kind of pain meds we are given- it just doesn't completely knock out the pain.  That means we all have to find ways to manage the pain- and fatigue- and sharing tips is a great way to find things we hadn't thought of before, so here are mine:


Heat, heat and more heat!
In the morning- while my coffee is brewing- I run moderately hot water and soak my hands in it.  This alleviates the stiffness and the pain enough to grab that coffee.

Wrapping my hands around the cup- not the handle- radiates the heat from the coffee right into my joints. 

Heating pads - of course- are my dearest friends on many, many evenings. 

I can't say enough about Thermacare.  I can wear them to work and have them working on me all day long.  And no- I don't stick to the body part listed on the box- they can be modified to whatever you need.  My particular favorites are the ones that they claim for "menstrual pain" because they will stick to the inside of your clothing and stay right at the place you need them.  I should have bought stock in them years ago.

Massage- if you can afford a professional massage- it makes a world of difference.  If you cannot afford a professional massage- look and see if there is a masssage therapy school in your area.  It would actually be great experience for the students to learn how to work with a chronic pain patient- the important thing is to speak to the instructors first so that they can oversee your care.  You also do not want to hesitate to speak up if something does not feel right when they are working on you- it's the only way for them to learn. 


Obviously the first thing I have to say is- learn to listen to your body!  If your body says it's time to stop- STOP.  Pushing through will only make it worse.  I have to admit- I am the worst about this- but I am learning. 

I am a huge fan of naps.  If you have the time and it won't mess up your normal sleep cycle- just do it!

Take some quiet time every day.  You don't have to have a huge chunk of time- even 15 minutes just to sit quietly, maybe put on soft music, maybe lose yourself in a good book- but just sit in a chair and let yourself relax.  The most important thing is to stop thinking about your to-do list or your bills, your appointments or whatever else is pulling at you.  Let it go during your quiet time.  It will really refresh and rejeuvinate you!

Find something that will help you get out of "work" mode and into "bed" mode at night and make it a routine.  For me, it's not unusual to see me in pajamas very soon after I get home at night.  Changing my clothes into my comfortable pajamas makes the transition feel real.  I take my pups for a walk at between 7:30 and 8 every evening.  After that walk I either take a nice hot shower or have a hot cup of tea.  These things send a signal to my brain that the day is ending.  I find that when I don't do these things it is much, much harder for me to turn my brain off and when I get to sleep when I go to bed.

All of these things help me to manage my pain and fatigue- and I am always on the look out for new, non-medicated, ways that other use.  So if you have tips- please let me know!  I hope one of these is something that may help you as well. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We must stop the bullying.

     Though I have a general rule about leaving religion, sex and politics out of my blogs- I feel have to touch on this today.  The reason I leave them out is because I feel that we all have our own beliefs, values and convictions and I will not argue mine nor will I try to steer you away from yours.  In that respect- it's easier just to not discuss them.  That said- the recent suicides by children and young adults due to bullying in this country has outraged me to my core.  What is our world coming to that these children are driven to end their lives because of the mistreatment by other children?  What kind of parent allows their child to harrass another child to this point- or worse (as in the case of the infamous "myspace Mom") encourages or joins in with the bully? 

I have, through out my life, had a large number of friends who were (and still are) gay or lesbian.  I have loved them as I have any other friend.  I guess I am very fortunate.  I was raised to see people- not color, not sexuality, not size, not age- just people.  To me- no matter what color you are, no matter how old/young you are,no matter what size you are, no matter who you sleep with ( as long as it is consensual)- if you are a good person, you are a good person.  The rest just doesn't matter to me. 

Let's get to bullying for a minute.  Bullies have been around forever- the only thing that has evolved is the manner in which they go about it.  When I was a kid- a hundred or so years ago- bullies were much more physical.  Shoving people into lockers, wedgies, swirlies, and when it got bad- actually beating the victim up.  Bullies existed on and drew strength from physical intimidation and from verbal harrassment.  How many of us remember hearing about or even witnessing the "3:00 Showdown" where the bully would tell the victim and anyone else they could- that they were going to "get" them after school?  In the years that have gone by- many schools have instituted a zero-tolerance policy on the physical abuse.  While I view their zero-tolerance policies with a jaundiced eye (but that is for another post) it has made schools physically safer for the most part.  Unfortunately that has not stopped the bully- it has only driven them underground and made them more creative.  These days bullies continue with the verbal harrassment and they upped the ante by taking their harrassment online.  Have we made things better?  Or is the mental and emotional trauma far worse than the "old" days? 

A majority of the cases we have seen in the news have been teens who are LGBT.  Sharon Stapel with the Huffington Post says: 

This week we have been forced to bear witness to the violence that is done to LGBT people and wondered "how could this happen?" The suicides of nine young people who were bullied and taunted about their sexual orientation and gender expression exposed the tragedy and pain that LGBT people live with and die from every day.

 In my experience- this harrassment of kids who are- or may not be but for some reason are percieved as being- gay or lesbian is not new at all.  Back in the 80's when I was in high school it was fairly common to hear:  "He's such a FAG" or "You Homo!" or "That's so GAY".  In full disclosure- I used "That's so GAY" as often as anyone else.  At the time and even up until very recently I didn't think about how someone who WAS gay would feel about hearing that- I just used it as a descriptor for something that I found stupid.  I am sure that many people did the same that I did- and just didn't think about it any more than we do when we say "that's so retarded!" or something to that effect.

Evidently- the harrassment goes even further back.  Apparently- my generation didn't invent everything (HA!)
This morning while flipping through my usual lists of news and blogs that I go to each morning I found this message from Tim Gunn on EW's website:

Now I just admire the public personality of Tim Gunn.  I find him to be stylish and elegant, kind and wise. He is honest without being cruel.  He is a man that I would like to know on a personal basis.  That he was so desperate that he attempted suicide as a teenager just makes me incredibly sad. 

Having known my friends who happened to be gay, having had many discussions with them about what they went through to get to the point where they accept themselves and the struggle for acceptance in their families and amongst their friends- no one will EVER convince me that being gay is a choice.  No one will convince me that enduring the harrassment that they were subject to is a choice. No one will convince me that risking coming out while knowing that they could be ostracized in their own families or communities for being who they are is a choice. And if it is not a choice- then it is a part of how you are born.  If it is how you are born doesn't that mean that we are all just one or two genetic marker from being gay?

 What I don't understand is why we (as a society) view being gay as any different than being white or black, being fat or thin, being tall or short, or being disabled.  Yes- there are sterotypes- but really-there are stereotypes about Blondes (blonde moments anyone?), or tall people (must play basketball, right?); about different races (not even going there); about being thin (must be anorexic!) or fat (must just eat like a pig!); about girls who dress a certain way (SLUT!) or who are athletic (TOMBOY!) - and why do we hang tight to those and all of the other stereotypes?  Are we afraid to get to know the person as an individual?  Or are we afraid they might see the real us?

So what can we do about all of this?   Dan Savage has started the "It Gets Better Project" on Youtube.     There is also The Trevor Project aimed at stopping teen suicide.  But we can also do something closer to home.  We can speak out against bullying within our homes and our communities.  We can STOP feeding the stereotypes and start looking at what is in people's hearts rather than what is on the outside.  We can think before we speak and remember that we don't know who is listening to what we are saying.  Words are so very powerful- and you don't know how your words will affect someone who may just be passing by as you speak them.  We can teach our children tolerance and understanding.  We can encourage them to be the best person that they can be and teach them to find power in encouraging others rather than in tearing them down.  We can stand up to bullying whether it is happening to us or to someone else.  All it takes is to say the words "That's not cool." "I don't think that's funny" "I won't listen to this" or "Do you even know this person?"

My challenge to myself is to take a deep breath and think before I speak.  My challenge to myself is to remember the power of words and use mine for good.  I challenge you to create your own challenge. 

I am eternally grateful that I have never been on the receiving end of a true bully and if I ever hurt anyone through my words or actions (and I am sure that I have) I would like to publicly apologise to them here.   While I may not know first hand how it feels to be bullied I do know that it is within my power to not tolerate it and to make a difference in the life of someone who has been.  If we all work to lift one another up we will give one another strength and in that strength- nothing can tear us down. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome Fall- no matter how fleeting.

This weekend has really felt like it is finally Fall.  As I sit here this morning in my yoga pants and a hoodie sweatshirt with the back door wide open to the screen, it is a slightly chilly 51 degrees out.  If I look outside I see the wind blowing through the trees like it is rushing to get some place as quick as possible.  Our leaves- our poor leaves haven't had enough rain to turn colors and are already floating down to the ground.  Were it not for the wind I would be outside with my coffee but it would turn it cold even faster than it is now with the doors open.  It has been in the 60's all weekend and it has been lovely.  That said- this cold snap will be over soon. Starting tomorrow the temps start climbing back- mid 70's tomorrow and 80's by the end of the week.  You won't hear me griping about it though.  The longer we can hold off the winter; the happier I am. 

This weekend also sees the coming of many festivals and fairs in the area.  At my parents- it is the Fall Festival.  I haven't been to that particular festival since I was a child but I very clearly remember eating "Pronto Pups" (aka Corn Dogs) and nut covered Caramel Apples while we walked around the Festival with my Granny.  Here in New Albany it is the beginning of Harvest Homecoming.  It will be crazy down there for the next week but everyone looks forward to this event all year.  As for us- I think we are heading down to watch the Hot Air Balloon races today. We have scoped out a location that won't involve us to be in the thick of things and if we go we will take some munchies and a blanket and sit in the back of my honey's truck and watch the balloons.  If the wind keeps up- it should make for an interesting race. 

Well- I think for me it is time to go get some Apples and some caramel dip, chop some peanuts and almonds and do the double dip thing.  I might get some apple cider and throw in some spices and boil it on the stove to make the house really smell like fall.  I hope this season lasts as long as possible.  And I hope you enjoy your Sunday. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Going out with a boom

Yesterday was the last day of my 29 days of Giving.  I decided to give every opportunity I could.  I took food to my weight watcher's meeting for the food bank, I bought Harvest Homecoming pins, which benefit our town's Harvest Homecoming celebration (we don't usually go- too crazy crowded), I donated to the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk, I spent extra time giving each of the puppies the belly loves that they love.  Essentially I tried to step outside myself and make it about everything but me.  In the end, there is a real feeling of satisfaction. 

I think my next step is to re-read the book, keep going to the website and look for other creative ideas to give to others.  Then I can begin again with another 29 day challenge. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Potpourri of Things

It's a beautiful Fall-feeling morning here in Kentuckiana.  Yes- I am still participating in my challenge.  It has mostly been little things each day and it definitely keeps me on my game.  I really have to stop and think.  On one hand I could write and write about how it makes me feel- on the other hand writing about the actual give would probably bore you senseless.  For example;  Friday, Day 24, I took a variety of books to my infusion center.  They have a bunch of boxes of books there for the patients to read during their infusion and we can borrow them and bring them back next treatment.  While I have never used them because I always bring something with me to read- I liked the idea and I knew that our very hardworking nurses love to read as well so I made sure to bring something they would enjoy as well.  Not very exciting in the grand scheme of things but they really enjoyed digging through that bag and seeing the new titles and that felt good.  I think what it is doing most for me is making me step outside myself and shed my day and think about someone else.  Definitely makes you stop wallowing and start getting creative. 

Speaking of getting creative.  I have been collecting for some time now all sorts of things for two vision boards.  Yesterday I complete the first of them.  This first one is for my weight loss journey.  On it is everything from pictures of three "celebs" that I think are just knock out gorgeous to photos of people doing Yoga to the actual goal to words of inspiration.  It is sitting next to me almost at my elbow so that every time I look to the left- that is what I see.  It pulls your eye do different places each time.  This time I could see "Eat Right" or "Lose for Good", next time "Discover a new calm", "Fear of Nothing" or "A journey to healthy" and then "Hello Bombshell" or "Always be your best."  The idea behind the vision board is to focus me and keep me inspired to stay on this journey. 

Another step in this is my accountability to my dear friends.  Two of my friends, my sister and I have a little group on facebook where we talk about our challenges, we share tips and ideas and are generally sharing our weight loss struggle.  In this group we have created the common goal of moving every single day.  We have created "Accountability" threads for Yoga and Pilates and we have found that each of us has cable and on our cable box we have ExerciseTV on our OnDemand.  This gives us a variety of different exercise programs to choose from and so we found one 40 minute Yoga that we really like collectively that we share and we all have other programs that we like individually.  Each day we check in on those threads and tell what we did or did not do.  This morning I just wasn't feeling it.  I didn't sleep well and I was sore and tired but knowing I had to check in- I couldnt' NOT move and so I did 20 minutes of modified yoga and movement.  After I did it I felt like I had started my day the right way.  Even if I take it easy the rest of the day- I have gotten in my movement for the day. 

I also started today watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition from last night.  Nine minutes in I had tears just streaming down my face.  I love this show.  I have watched every single episode.  It just pulls at my heart in so many different directions.  In this episode, rather than a single family they were doing a house for Girls Hope in Baltimore.  The Girls and Boys Hope program is located in 15 cities across the country.  In the residential progam- the "Scholars" as they are known, move out of their family's home in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city and into the shared house with house managers.  The program employees and volunteers mentor these children in a holistic fashion and partner with the parents to help these kids acheive their dreams.   The Baltimore Boys program (who nominated the Girls program) has a 100% rate of their graduates who complete the program going to college.  What a fantastic success rate!  In watching these boys and girls in their interviews each of them are so grateful for the opportunity that they have been given and were so excited to get to a time in their lives when they could in turn pay it forward.  What a difference this will make in their lives and the lives of so many girls and boys for years to come.  I love that EMHE chose this program for this season's opener.  It's so much bigger than just one nuclear family.  The initial "class" of girls is 7 strong but with the 11000 square foot home- there is room for even more as the program settles into their new home and grows.  Kudos to ABC for their selection of this group. 

Well- that's my round up of "good things" for this weekend.  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and a terrific week. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 22- Our "preferred" charities

Yesterday's give was a donation to the Louisville AIDS Walk.  Some of the kids from the school have put together a team and I have to support that.  I am grateful that they have chosen to do this and that I could help out a little with my donation. 

Everyone has those different causes and events that they support.  Hubby and I have our "Fave Five" charities.  You know- the one's that you wish there was not a need for but that you will always support.  Ours are:

The Arthritis Foundation (natch)
Breast Cancer Research (both Avon Foundation and Komen)
The AIDS Foundation
The American Cancer Society
The Humane Society

These causes are very near and dear to our hearts for different reasons.  I won't expand on them because some of the stories are my honey's to tell but suffice it to say that believe strongly in what they are doing.  We also believe that we would like to see a cure for the top four in our lifetimes.  This is not to detract from any other causes because there are others that we support both seperately and together but these 5 are the most important to us as a unit.  We commend the work done by the different foundations and we also commend anyone who gets out there and does what they have to do to spread the word about both the work being done and the reason for it.  They get a big YOU ROCK from us!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 21- World Gratitude Day and an Anonymous Iced Tea

Happy World Gratitude Day!  I spent today making a mental list of all of the small things I am grateful for.  The usual things like just waking up this morning and my puppies and my honey and my son.  I also made it a point to share the day with everyone I could.  I made sure to thank EVERYONE for everything. 

On my way home I stopped at the store and treated myself to a Starbucks Iced Tea.  I then told the young lady to charge me for two and give one to the next person who came- I knew that would be my give for the day.  She was mystified.  Obviously she hasn't had that happen before because she stopped ringing me up to go tell the other two girls working with her.  They were all taken aback.  I hope that they passed on the iced tea- and that it made an impression on them and made them want to try it too. 

I want to take just a minute to thank all of you who read this blog.  Your comments make me smile, they make me laugh, they make me feel like we are in this together.  I appreciate that- and the time you take to read and write here- more than you can know.  You are a gift to me!

Days 18- 20, A Walk, A Bag and a Book

Whew!  It's been an exhausting couple of days.  I will try to keep this not-too-long.

Saturday- Day 18 was the Arthritis Walk.  It was a beautiful day for a walk, not terribly hot in the morning which is important.  The Arthritis Foundation of Louisville did a wonderful job of organizing everything.  I love that they invite the River City Drum Corp out every year.  I can't speak for everyone but those talented kids keep me moving the whole 5k.  We had some terrific sponsors again this year so that was fun too.  After that was over- I rushed home and we got the dogs ready for our second charity event of the day- the Bark in the Park.  This event is just what it sounds like- a day in the park for the pups with all sorts of pup related "stuff" from veteranarians to different rescue organizations and it is put together by the shelter where we found Auggie and Harley.  We picked up new bandanna's for the "kids", they got to see the people who cared for them and they ran around like crazy until they were totally worn out. 

Sunday- Day 19 was a recovery day for us.  I was worn out and so were the puppies.  We wanted to relax so we took a drive into Oldham County into horse country.  It was just beautiful.  On the way back we stopped at the store for dinner.  While we were there, for my give, I picked up the donation bag that I intended to pick up the last time I was at the grocery- before the alarms went off at the store.  I am grateful that our store has these ready.  They are in a big bin and are mesh bags that contain tuna, mac and cheese, canned veggies and fruit and other items.  You just take the bag to the cashier and they ring it up for you and you put it in the box for the shelter.  The best part of all of this is that it makes it easy to give something at any time. 

Monday- day 20 was back to work.  My assistant was having car and phone trouble.  It was an easy decision to make- I took her to the garage to drop off her car and then to the Verizon store to get another phone.  While we were in the car running around, I also shared the book that kicked this all off with her and gave her a copy- with the request that when she finishes it- she passes it on.  At the end of the day- I took her back to get her car and then went home for the day.

 I was thinking back on the day and I can't believe it has already been 20 days.  There are only 9 days left to go in this challenge and while I don't know what is in store for me in terms of my gives- I am so looking forward to where this takes me. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 16 - Turning "Bad" into "Give"

Yesterday was day 16.  It was a LONG day at work and when I was done I was SO ready to go home but before I could I had to stop at the grocery. I love grocery shopping and I like to buy the "helping hunger" tags and bags and planned to do so for my give for the day.  So I was wheeling around the store- just spacing off- and had been at it for a bit.  I still had a few items to get when I phone rang.  I looked at it- didnt recognize the number and dropped it back in my purse.  I figured it was a wrong number so why bother?  Two seconds later- phone rings again- from a different number.  This time it was from I picked up.  It was Campus Police telling me that the alarms were going off in my store.  I told them I would be back ASAP.  Hung up with them- phone rings again (now I am getting annoyed) and it's the security company- telling me the alarm is going off in the store.  I rushed through the rest of my shopping and called the other half to tell him dinner would be late and headed back to the store. 

When I got back there was nothing amiss but it had erased all my relaxation.  I walked through the whole store before I realized that it was most likely the mylar balloons that we had bought for our open house that had set off the alarms.  The air had kicked on- they moved- and set off the motion detectors.  I wasn't about to leave them there to get calls all weekend so I cut them all down and was about an inch away from popping all 30 of them when I realized that beyond being a pain in my butt they could possibly bring some joy to someone else.  I gathered them all up and took them down to the police station.  I asked if the officer sitting there or the dispatcher had children who would enjoy the balloons.  Neither did- but our dispatcher admitted he loves them.  So I handed them over and he just smiled and smiled.  He told me he would be taking them home and sharing them with his mom. 

I said my goodbyes and left- feeling much lighter in spirit than when I had returned.  I am so glad that he will take them and enjoy them for the whole weekend.  I am also glad I realized the "culprit" so that I wont be making trips back and forth all weekend.  ;-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 15- Small Things Add Up- and I need to remember that.

Small things adding up became the theme of my day yesterday.  I was sitting (half of forever) in the drive through at McDonalds yesterday morning waiting for coffee.  I must say- I almost never go to McDonalds for anything but my place that I stop for coffee is being renovated and since I was in a hurry I decided to bypass going into Starbucks and give McDonalds a shot.  I think it was a sign for me to slow down and get my head right because it turns out that McDonalds computers were down and so as each person got to the little order speaker they hollered out "We are accepting cash only please pull ahead to the first window and we will take your order."  That means that things were SUPER slow. 

While I was sitting there waiting I remembered that they have a little bin below the window where you can put donations for the Ronald McDonald House.  The idea is that a lot of people will throw their in their change.  Of course I put my change in there and then I struggled with whether or not it was "enough".  I looked in the mirror behind me and saw the line of cars and was reminded of an email that I created years ago when I was first doing fundraising for my Avon Walks.  The gist of it was that any donation, all donations, make a difference.  I figured up what it takes to get to a thousand dollars:

100,000 pennies

20,000 nickles
10,000 dimes
4,000 quarters
1,000 singles
200 fives
100 tens
50 twenties
You get the picture.

Now- ask yourself- how many pennies do we throw away every year? How many pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters do we walk over on the street? Let me tell you- they add up, and quickly! So- if you want to put them to good use- let me know. You can email me for the address to literally send those pennies and we will roll the up and turn them in or you can go to my Arthritis Walk web pages and make a small donation.
I looked at all of the cars behind me again and imagined how much money would go to the Ronald McDonald house if every car that came through that day gave their change.  I bet it would add up pretty quickly.  Finally I got my coffee and off I went. 

The irony here is that I ended my day at Weight Watchers.  I got there and I got on the scale and I was down two tenths of a pound.  I struggled with this while I was waiting for the meeting to start.  On one hand I kept thinking "You have been on prednisone for 5 months now- you know people who are up 25-60 lbs from five months on this drug and you had a loss- take it and run."  On the other hand I was disappointed with the ONLY .2 pounds.  I have struggled with the same two pounds since April.  Up-down-up-down and I have let it really derail me on occasion.  All of these things were swirling through my head when our adorable little leader Valerie came in and revealed the theme for the meeting.  Her board said:
Why don't we appreciate?

She proceeded to ask how many of us hear these numbers at the scale and are disappointed?  Not one person in the room kept their hands down.  Valerie talked about how these small losses add up and how we can take the small weeks and learn from them.  While she was talking I kept kicking back to that whole dialogue I had running in my head in the drive through at 7am.  It made an impact.  I realized that while I can appreciate the smallest donation to my causes, I beat myself up when it comes to small weight loss.  Do you see the inconsistancy that slapped me in the face?  I finally did and that was a terrific gift received. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 14- Reaching out

Today's gift-  I sent another simple email but this one was one just reaching out to an old friend.  It shouldn't have been hard but I didn't quite know what to say.  We didn't part on bad terms or anything but it's been so long and I feel guilty for not doing my part in having kept in contact.  I sat with my fingers on the keys and didn't quite know how to start. I contemplated a million things to say and and a million ways to say it.  In the end I just let her know that I was thinking of her and I missed her.  In writing it out, I felt that missing just a little bit more and at the same time, in letting her know I felt a little better about it.  She may not get back to me and that is okay- as long as she knows that I was thinking of her today.  I don't know about anyone else- but knowing that someone is thinking of me fondly can make a big difference in my day. 

Day 13- Sometimes you have to break the rules

A little explaination before I talk about my give for Day 13.  My business is not like traditional retail.  Where else would you hear "I know it's after the return date but my book hasn't come in from (choose your other retailer here) yet so can't I just buy one from you today and return it after my test?"  or "Can you write down all of the information for me so I can go buy from so and so?"  We hear a million and two reasons why, despite having worked hard to make sure we have the right book at the right time and selling our products in good faith, we should either take the product back beyond the returns period or help someone buy it from another vendor.  It can be very frustrating not only for me but also for my staff who work so hard to get everything in and on the shelves and to the customer and then 8 or so weeks after school starts, have to pack up everything that is left and return it to the publisher or wholesaler. 

Another issue we have that most retailers don't is with "packages" or "bundles".  Software and access codes are becoming more and more prevalent and the latest "money saver" being touted by publishers is to pack up looseleaf versions of the books.  The problems lies when the student opens up the looseleaf book or the access code and then wants to return it.  We do not have the time and manpower it would require to page through every page of a looseleaf book to make sure that every page is there.  If we were to spend that time- our returns lines (which already look like the day after Christmas in most retail establishments) would take 3x as long.  Can you imagine the complaints that would come out of that?  If the access codes are open- there is no way for us to know or verify if that access code has been registered.  If we took either of these products back we could not just (as with traditional books) put them on the shelf and hope that someone purchased them.  We would have to write them off- and that loss is not small.  Because this has become such a big issue, we not only have added to our return policy and tell each customer verbally that they should not open the package until they are positive that they will use it- they now have to sign an agreement acknowledging that if they DO open the package- they forfeit the right to return the product.  Since instituting this agreement it has cut down signficantly on the "Well, no one told me!" as reasons why we should give a refund on an access code that has been opened and registered and therefore can never be used by anyone else. 

So yesterday my staff sent a gentleman to me who had a return request.  The gentleman's son had withdrawn from school and though my staff had taken back most of the books that he had purchased- there was the issue of a looseleaf package that had been opened.  I talked to the gentleman for a bit and got the backstory.  I am not going to lay it out here because it's not my place to share but I will say this- as a parent, I would hope that if I were in the same situation that someone would show compassion.  And so I broke the rules.  That is my gift for day 13.  They may not ever know that this was my "gift" for the day- but I know that afterward I felt that I had done what I would want done for me had the situation been reversed.  I hope that someday- given the opportunity- they will pass this one on. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 12- Keeping the Peace

Today was a very cranky day.  I don't know what was up with me beside the fact that I was dealing with extra pain today but it started out bad and could have gone very far downhill from there.  Just before noon, after I got back from taking my dogs for their training walk,  I got into another sniping match with my long suffering, often annoying, other half.  This was the third or fourth today.  Instead of escalating it- I walked away. 

When I walked away I started thinking about this challenge and I knew that I was not in a giving frame of mind.  The more I thought about it, the more my brain started racing and the worse it got.  I took a few medatative breaths and decided that the only way that I would find peace and get into the right mindset was to give my husband just that- peace. 

For the rest of the day I remained outwardly (even when my brain was firing off all sorts of bitchy remarks in my head) calm, I didn't allow him to irritate me (even when he was trying), I played took him (played designated driver) to get a pizza that I was not going to eat from a place that I don't even like, I left him to watch his stuff on the big TV till it was time to take the dogs out and then when we got home I loaded the dishes and let him hop in the shower first.  Now he is in bed, I am finishing this up then it will be my turn to shower and head to bed.  I am glad I made this choice today.  I know that I benefitted from it, he benefitted from it and even the dogs benefitted from it.  I think we will all rest easy tonight. 

Sweet dreams my friends.

Day 11- Lose for Good with Weight Watchers

For the third year in a row, Weight Watchers is doing their "Lose for Good" campaign.  For 7 weeks, Weight Watchers will donate up to a MILLION dollars to Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger in an effort to stamp out hunger in the United States.  I love this because- as many huge celebrity fundraisers and such that you see for other countries- WW is turning their attention to home.  There is no excuse for anyone, child or adult, to go to bed hungry in the US. 

So how does it work?  Well- first of all- in WW centers all over the US, every time we get on the scale for our official weekly weigh in- Weight Watchers will donate a dollar for every pound we lose.  Think of the thousands of people who are on this program- and that is a LOT of folks stepping on the scale each week. 

Second is "Action Tuesdays".  Every Tuesday, WW will give it's members a challenge- and for every member who completes the challenge- a donation will be made. 

Third- and this is where this program ties in with my give- many of the centers are holding their own food drives to benefit local food banks.  Yesterday I ruthlessely ripped through my cabinets and put together items to take to my meeting on Wednesday.  It is sitting by the door and ready to go into my car when I leave today. 

 Don't want (or need) to join Weight Watchers?  You can still help.  On Tuesday, September 14th- Weight Watchers is hosting Lose-a-palooza.  From the site:  For every accepted mention or acknowledgment of “Lose For Good” made on September 14th through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and check-in via foursquare, Weight Watchers will donate $1 – up to $60,000* – to Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger.

It's that easy on Tuesday.  So get those hashtags ready and mention it on facebook, twitter and your blog.  Weight Watchers has made it easy for all of us to make a difference!  Applause to them for this terrific campaign. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 10- an email

I had today off.  I was so ready for this that I stayed up a little late last night and slept in this morning.  I then proceeded to do not much of anything important all day- and best of all- I didn't even change out of my pajamas.  It was a great day overall.  BUT- not getting out of the house presented a small challenge- what could I give today? 

I thought it over long and hard and what I did was send an email to my father-in-law.  Though I love him we don't talk very often. He is not super communicative.  My husband calls him occasionally but my father in law doesn't call or email on his own.  After my mother-in-law passed away last year, I made a real effort to either send him a letter or email every single week.  After months of no response- I gave up.  Well, today I decided that my gift was to give it a shot again.  He may not respond- but that doesn't mean that I can't make the effort.  So I sent him an email just to let him know I was thinking about him.  It almost feels....less hurtful I guess to send the email fully aware that there is a very slim chance that he will reply.  Kinda like anticipating putting peroxide on a wound-lol. 

Tomorrow is another day!  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 9- Donation for the Cure

 My middle sister is walking the Susan Koman Walk for the Cure. next month with the folks from her workplace.  I am very proud of her for walking this event for the second year in a row.  I am grateful that she has taken up this cause because for four years I walked for breast cancer and I have turned my attention to the Arthritis Walks (Louisville is a week from Saturday!)since I have moved to an area that does not have an Avon Walk. 

I do not- by any stretch of the imagination- think one is more important than the other.  I wish we did have Avon Walks out here because I think they are so very well run and I like what the foundation does overall so I would most assuredly still be walking for them if they were local.  We lost my beloved Granny to complications stemming from breast cancer less than 10 years ago so the cause is near and dear to my heart.  The Arthritis Walk, on the other hand, is very personal since I am living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. 

My gift this morning is a donation to my sister's walk and the publishing the link to her walk right along side mine in hopes that folks are interested enough to donate to one or both.  Though we live so very far apart- I will be with her in spirit next month as she gets out there and pounds the pavement.  Between our two causes it is my hope that a cure will be found in my lifetime. 

Gratitude Reminder from my inbox

When I need the message most- things tend to show up and "hit me over the head" as hard as needed.  This was sitting in my inbox just waiting for me.  Quoted from the "Secret Scroll":

From The Secret Daily Teachings

Begin your day by feeling grateful. Be grateful for the bed you just slept in, the roof over your head, the carpet or floor under your feet, the running water, the soap, your shower, your toothbrush, your clothes, your shoes, the refrigerator that keeps your food cold, the car that you drive, your job, your friends. Be grateful for the stores that make it so easy to buy the things you need, the restaurants, the utilities, services, and electrical appliances that make your life effortless. Be grateful for the magazines and the books that you read. Be grateful for the chair that you sit on, and the pavement that you walk on. Be grateful for the weather, the sun, the sky, the birds, the trees, the grass, the rain, and the flowers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

May the joy be with you,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 8- A night off

My honey is super tired today.  For some reason he was up at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep.  When I got home (finally) he was cooking dinner.  So, as today's gift, I emptied the dishwasher and took both dogs for their walks so he didn't have to come with us.  After dinner, I did the dishes.  It's not big, but I know that when I am tired- a night to just relax is just what the doctor ordered. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 7- The first book

I finally found a person today that, when I saw them, I knew that they needed a copy of "29 Gifts in 29 Days". 

My "buddy" James is one of the sweetest, most positive people that I have met.  He is the survivor of NINE (yes NINE) heart attacks- and he is about my age.  He wheels around campus in his scooter and never has a cross word for anyone.  He is always trying to get everyone he meets to smile. 

When I saw him today- I just knew that even if he didn't personally need the message- he would know who to pass it on to that would really need it.  When I gave it to him- he completely understood the gesture.  I explained how much it touched me and that I wanted to share it with him- but more- I wanted him to pass it along after he read it. 

I really hope that he enjoys the book half as much as I did and that whomever he passes it along to continues the cycle. 

Day 6- The Project

A while back Jim and I went to a kick off event for my coming Arthritis Walk Louisville.  One of the fundraisers there was the ability to buy "panels" that the buyer was to decorate which would then be displayed at the walk.  We bought one, we put it in the truck and promptly forgot about it. 

Now- I have to admit that I am NOT artistic in the slightest.  My mom and middle sister are scrapbook queens.  They do beautiful work.  Mom does toll painting and all sorts of crafts.  I think that gene got lost somewhere with me-lol.  So the thought of decorating this thing didn't even enter my mind.  Until yesterday. 

I wondered what I had to give yesterday and then my hubby cleaned out his truck so we could take it to a specific 4-wheel necessary geocache that dad wanted to get and he came strolling in with the panel.  Looking at it I knew that I not only wanted to decorate it- but I wanted to share my philosophy about my RA on this panel.  I asked Mom for help and we got down to work. 

We selected some of her scrapping papers that I wanted to use, and I chose stickers and stuff that I thought were appropriate.  Then I got down to the business of finding the perfect quotes to both reflect my philosophy and hopefully inspire someone who is newly diagnosed to think differently about this devastating news. 

Here is our final product:

The quote in the center: 

Yes- I am a terrible photographer-lol.  I wanted to highlight the quote that reads "Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional. "  So we put that in the center with "my" footprints leading from that to our other quotes.  Notice that puppy prints are walking through the "picture" as well since Harley and Auggie are not only my training buddies but already completed one walk with me this year and will be doing this one too. 

The other two quotes read: 

"Sometimes the cards we are dealt are not always fair.  However you must keep smiling & moving on."  Tom Jackson

"You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you." Walt Disney

The most important part of this is that Mom and I did it together and that the quote in the center truely reflects everything I am trying to say with this blog, with the 29 gifts project, with the way I live my life.  If only one person takes notice of it,  reads it and has an "Ah-Ha" moment- this gift from my heart will have served its purpose. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

The power of YES

Yesterday's gift was the word yes.  Though it was a perfect day to do absolutely nothing but relax- I decided that instead I would be game for whatever. 

Auggie wanted to play- we took his ball outside and threw it and he fetched till he fell over and flopped on it. 

Harley wanted to snuggle up for belly rubs- she got a solid half an hour.  Till she snored louder than my honey.

Honey wanted to nap- we took the dogs and napped as a family.

Dad wanted to go geocaching- we searched and found 7! 

Mom wanted to watch a movie- we stayed awake a little later and watched "Date Night". 

Everyone was happy, everyone got to do what they wanted to do, and it didn't hurt a bit. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 4 Knowledge and Closure

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I knew that my gift for the day would be sharing my time and knowledge with my cousin.  I didn't know where it would lead. 

I rarely get to see my cousins.  When we were kids, in the years between Dad coming home from the Vietnam War in '69 and receiving his commission in '75, we lived in the same town as my cousins on my mom's side.  We were stair step kids of sorts with my cousin Kraig and I square in the middle.  His two siblings older than us, my two sisters younger than us.  We played together at our homes and at my Granny's, and we really enjoyed one another.  After Dad received his commission, we left Evansville and started moving whereever the Air Force took us.  For me that meant 13 schools in far less than that number of years, different countries etc.  "Home" became Granny's house and she would travel to see us and us to her as often as possible.  When we were in Florida, she brought my cousins with her on the trip and then I went back with the four of them to Grans.  It was a road trip we would not forget. 

Over the years as we grew up, our trips became less and less frequent.   College and marriages got in the way, and even when we would return to Grans we might not get together.  In fact, in the three years since I have moved back to Indiana, I have seen my cousins at family events more often than I had seen them in the previous 20 years combined. 

Recently, my parents have been redoing a lot of "stuff" in their house.  When they got to the final room, they hired my oldest cousin to come and paint for them.  They had done the other rooms but this was their formal living room the last room to be done and they wanted it done right the first time.  While he was there, he and dad were on the computer one day looking for something and he was blown away by how fast dad's computer went.  It seems that he had a very old computer and was still on dial-up (oh the horror!) because they still don't have cable out where he lives.  Mom and Dad got ahold of me and asked me about our computer sale at the store.  We had a few left, so I arranged to get one for him and met Mom and Dad for dinner(I posted about it that night) and hand off the PC. 

A little later, Dad asked me if I would- next time I was in town- help my cousin get set up with his computer as I am the family "techie".  I agreed right away, but as I thought about it- there was some trepidation.  You see, he bought my Gran's house.  I haven't been there since she died a few years ago and I was afraid that it would hurt a lot to walk into the house that we called "home".  Despite this, I steeled myself and off I went. 

So- my gift yesterday was the time (almost 6hours) and knowledge that it took to get him set up on DSL and load all sorts of programs on to his computer so that he is able to just hit the ground running.  When I pulled in the driveway I felt the loss of my Gran wash over me but as I stepped in the house it wasn't all of the things that are the same that I noticed, it was the differences.  Even though it looked as if she could have still been there because it is mostly the same- there were enough subtle differences that it didn't FEEL like hers anymore.  That gave me a sense of peace and relief and enabled me to close the door on "Granny's house" once and for all. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 3- food and family

Today was all about working together.  One of the joys of having moved near enough to my parents to visit on a regular basis is that I can learn things that I never would have.  For example- last year we froze enough fresh peaches, strawberries and corn that I am STILL using them when I have a hankering for them.  This season we have already done my whole year's worth of corn.  Mom and Dad do theirs when they have time and then when I come down, Mom does mine with me so that she can show me and work with me so I get it right. 

Today was tomato juice.  If you have never had "real" (aka fresh- not out of a can) tomato juice- you are so missing out. It is so far superior in terms of flavor than the canned stuff could ever be.   Last week, mom canned tomato juice for her house and also made and canned homemade salsa- which is delicious.  She saved enough tomatos so that this weekend, I could learn to and put up my own tomato juice.  It is just delicious.  We use it to drink, to make soups, to make "goulash"- you name it.  Now I have my own "stock" of it and I am thrilled. 

The important thing about this for me is not that I am stocking up my pantry- though that doesn't hurt.  It is that this is something that my mom did with her mom, and Granny did with her mom- and so on.  I come from a long line of farmers and gardners.  Even if they didn't have a traditional farm- the different family members grew enough of their own fruits and veggies to can and freeze for over the winter.  I can still picutre- down in Gran's celler, shelves FULL of diced tomatos, green beans, corn, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles and other veggies.  What she didn't grow, she would trade her surplus with someone who had a surplus of their veggies.  Learning to can that juice this afternoon made me feel like she was right there with us.  It keeps me connected to my family and my heritage and that is priceless. 

After we finished the tomato juice- Mom decided she wanted to make a cobbler out of her peaches before they go bad.  While she blanched them we visited and then while she was peeling I stepped in to help by making the batter for the crust.  At some point in this- Dad came up and started slicing the peeled peaches.  When we ate that cobbler tonight after dinner- we were eating a true family effort. 

After that we all lay down to take a nap but I could not get to sleep.  I decided to go ahead and run to the store to get batteries for my camera.  I asked Mom and Dad if they needed anything and they each had an item that they wanted so off I went.  While I was in the car, I decided that my gift for today would be the items that they asked me to pick up (I refused their money)  and also a gift of my homemade guacomole to go with Mom's homemade salsa.  They also really like (and I do as well since they had me try them this morning) the Archer Farms Organic corn tortilla chips from Target.  So I added that stop to my trip.  It always takes me half of forever in the grocery because I enjoy myself there, but I think I even took a little longer today because I found myself really lingering over the different ingredients because I wanted it to be just perfect since it was my gift to them. 

This evening my aunt and uncle came over (they live in Illinois and popped in to town for the weekend) and brought my grandmother with them so we could all go out to dinner.  That is usually a fairly stressful thing for me because I find it difficult to be overly "nice" to my grandmother.  There are a large number of things that I blatently do not like about the woman but the top of the list is how she treats my parents.  I only wish all of the people who think she is "just the most LOVELY woman"- knew her home face rather than the snow job public face she puts on. I decided that- for my own peace of mind and out of respect for my parents- I would give her a gift this evening- the gift of civility.  I sat next to her at dinner, I made conversation, I was perfectly polite.  It didn't hurt me one bit- and I am sure that she didn't even realize it because I try very hard to be polite to her- but it was a stretch.  My middle sister "liked" a quote the other day on facebook that said something to the effect of "Being nice to someone you don't like isn't being two-faced, it's called being a grown up."  I couldn't help but think of that over and over again during the meal and dessert. 

It was a beautiful day here today.  The gift I received was that of a gorgeous, temperate, sunny late summer/early fall afternoon.  Perfect weather for sitting outside or on the sunporch with a cup of coffee and watching the dogs chase squirrels and birds and then spending the afternoon learning to put up tomato juice with mom. 

The only downer to the day was that I started having shooting pains from my TMJ to my shoulder.  This particular site is becoming painful more and more frequently.  What I am very grateful for is that Mom and Dad had one of those horseshoe shaped travel pillows in the car because it helps to relieve the pain to lay down with one, and that Mom had Tiger Balm patches in the linen closet.  Tiger Balm- which my child turned me on to- stinks to high heaven but I cannot say enough about how well it works on any and all muscle pain.  I am just very grateful that Mom kept the patches and the balm even though she is not a huge fan, because for me, it blows BenGay and IcyHot and the like way out of the water.  After 30-45 minutes- I started feeling quite a bit of relief.  Now- it's time for bed.  Tomorrow is another day and I have my gift already planned.  :-) 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 2

Today's gifts are more traditional gifts.  I am at the beginning of a long weekend and though I had planned on waiting till my hubby was out of work for the weekend- he will now have to work Saturday so he is sending me to my parents with the puppies and will join us after he is out of work. 

So- I am going to see Mom and Dad and I am taking them each a book.  100 Reasons I Love My Dad and 100 reasons I Love My Mom.  There are more than 100- but I want them to know that I am thinking of them always so this is given with pure love.  I was saving these for Christmas- but they seem more appropriate now. 

On a side note- I bought two more copies of the book yesterday.  I am looking for the perfect people to give them to.  I am keeping them in the car because when I know who it is that "needs" this- they will be with me.  I think the perfect time will just speak to me.

I am so ready to spend the weekend just relaxing there.  I need the down time and the pups are more than ready to run free in the yard.  It will be a wonderful weekend. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 1 of the 29 Gifts Challenge

I didn't want to be overly obvious for my first day so I started low key.  I knew my husband was tired tonight and I have a lovely long weekend ahead of me so I came home and without saying anything cooked dinner (it was his night to cook) and then did the dishes(whoever cooks does not clean up) before I told him that it was a gift for him because he had a long day.  He was surprised and I felt good about it. 

Pretty good start. 

My Own 29 day challenge

As I mentioned in my last post, the book "29 Gifts" has really touched my heart.  I have decided to not wait until I finish it but to just jump in since it is September 1st.  The only "problem" is that, as with most challenges in my life, as soon as I made the decision to start- I found my brain kicking into "planning" mode.  What can I give?  Who can I give to?  Planning this out will take away from the spirit of the challenge.  So I had to stop and rewind.  The only "gift" I am planning is books I bought for my parents.  Since I am going to see them this weekend- I will bring their gifts. Before I do however- I think I will write a note and put it in the book.

The challenge is mindful giving.  On the site it asks- "What do you most want to receive?"  My answer was peace and contentment in my soul.  I think this will help me greatly in my quest to live a positive life.  If I receive other "gifts" in the process- they will be bonuses. 

So now I begin- I will keep you updated on my progress.   

Monday, August 30, 2010

29 Gifts

     I usually don't review books until I am finished but I feel that this one needs to be shared immediately.  I was stocking shelves with a new shipment of bargain books for our newly revamped "trade section" and when I went to put this on the shelves I immediately set aside a copy for myself.  Something about it just spoke to me and as I work my way through it- it continues to pull at me both mentally and emotionally.  It's funny because if you look at my bookshelves the selection is very eclectic but the majority is fiction.  This non-fiction account will hold a special place- right next to Eat, Pray, Love

To synopsize- the author, Cami Walker, was in a deep downward spiral as she battled Mulitple Sclerosis.  Barely able to get out of bed, Cami's every thought was gripped by negativity.  Caught in a web of "I'll never be able to..." and "Why did this happen to me" our author was to the point that she just wanted to die.  Until she received an unusual prescription from her friend and spiritual advisor Mbali Creazzo. 

"Give away 29 gifts in 29 days. 

Healing doesn't happen in a vacuum, but through interactions with other people.  By giving you are focused on what you have to offer others.  Inviting more abundance into your life.  Giving of any kind is taking a positive action that begins the process of change.  It will shift your energy for life." 
At first, Cami thought Mbali was crazy.  What did she have to give?  They were broke and she felt broken but eventually Cami gave in and began to try this way of life.  What happened next would change the course of her life.  Cami learned that the gifts she gave did not have to be material; only heartfelt and with mindfulness.  The more she gave, the stronger she became.  The stronger she became, the more she wanted to give.  And so, her life was changed forever.  Living from a positive place, Cami is now thriving and living with her MS as opposed to suffering from it. 

As someone who has been working on this premise for several years now, I am inspired by Cami's success in her mission and delighted to find a direct way to add positivity to my life.  I am only on the chapter entitled "The 8th Gift" and yet I am already thinking of who I want to give to and how.  I invite everyone to read this book or check out the website (linked in the title of the post) and let this challenge into your heart.  Part of the prescription is to journal about the journey.  As soon as I complete the book and begin the challenge- I will be sharing it here with you and on the 29 Gifts website blog as well.

Check out the bargain books at your local Barnes and Noble or you can order it using the following information:

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life
Cami Walker
ISBN: 9780738213569
De Capo Press

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another cup of coffee then away we go-

Good Morning all-  I am having a cup of coffee and watching the weather and it looks like it will be another gorgeous day in Kenuckiana- we love to see those numbers in the high 80's during the day and then finally- finally heading into the 60's for sleeping.  Considering that yesterday was the first day of classes at our University-it truely looks like Fall. 

One of the things that I receive in my email on a regular basis is a newsletter from "The Secret".  Last week- just in time for the craziness that is our rush I received this: 

You deserve to have whatever you want, because you are meant to have an amazing life! You are not meant to suffer or struggle. What would be the point of your life? You are meant to be, do, and have everything you want - no exceptions, no limits!

Decide right now that you are going to have an amazing life. Decide right now that you will not accept anything less. And know that the entire universe and all creation want to give you an amazing life!
The timing on this was impeccable.  I was sitting in my car, flipping through emails on my Crackberry on a small break at work.  I was agitated because we were not where I would like to be in terms of being ready for the semester and I was beating myself up over it when I opened this. Normally I just remove most of my newsletters from my mobile and read them at home but this time I accidentally hit the wrong button and there it was- I think it was karma giving me a much needed nudge in the right direction.  I read it, read it again and then saved it.  I have gone back to that email time and again since I got it and it never fails to make me stop to realize that I DO have an amazing life.  I have a life filled with blessings both great and small.  Each time I read this- I stop and automatically take a moment to give thanks for all of the people (and puppies) and things that make my life wonderful.  It puts me right back on track, it elevates my mood, and changes my attitude at least for the moment.  Once things settle down- I think I am going to print it out and put with the things I am collecting to put on my vision boards.  Heck- by October I may even have the time to finish those visions boards!

Speaking of vision boards- I have a "wall panel" that I purchased for as part of the fundraiser for the Arthritis Walk in September.  I need to "decorate" it in some way.  It can be about the walk, it can be about what gets us through the day with RA- it can be anything it wants as long as it's motivational in some way.  I am at a loss as to where to start.  It needs to be complete by September 18th- so I need to get going on it.  I need to think about what I want to see as I am walking around and around for that 5k.  I want something inspirational I think.  I guess I will start working on that project this weekend.  So here is my question for you- what inspires you to keep going in the face of adversity?