Friday, May 28, 2010

Long Weekend Ahead!

There was a time- not so many years ago- that a holiday weekend for me just meant more time to work at my second job.  One of the very first positive steps that I took on this path was to no longer work a second job.  Wellll- technically that is not totally true.  Seven times a year I act as proctor for the Praxis exam- that's my only "second job"- and it's a sweet gig. 

There are people in my life who cannot believe I have made this change and that is has lasted so long.  I still get comments about working over a hundred days in a row, taking a day off and then doing it again.  As a self-admitted workaholic,even I know that was excessive.  Each and every time I get these comments- I am eternally grateful that that part of my life is behind me. 

This weekend we are shooting down to my folks house.  They are on a wonderful trip of their own.  We are going to go down and make sure the lawn has been taken care of, I will check the gardens and deadhead if necessary, if we need to mow- we will do that too.  We will let the puppies run free in the yard.  We will shoot to the grocery and pick up some stuff and grill.  We will watch Avatar on Mom's big old HD tv.  Basically it will be like we are home- because it is our second home but still like we are away.  We will get some work done and make sure they don't have to do too much when they come home- and then we will come home and do some housework of our own.  Not terribly exciting- but very low key.  We will enjoy that we have three whole days together with no real responsibilities, nothing pressing, nothing to do but relax and enjoy our "babies" and some quiet.  We might even take in the Zoo since we have yearly memberships. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Making Changes

There are two quotes that I am ruminating on this morning. The great Maya Angelou said:
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.

The second is the commonly know Serenity Prayer, originally written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr quoted here it its entirety:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Of course- most know just the first stanza of this- it is widely used in the recovery process from various addictions. 

I am someone who is very apprehensive when it comes to change.  I would not say fearful, but I prefer the known, I prefer to be able to plan my life, I prefer routine.  Change makes me a bit anxious.  There are some changes that just must be made though in order to better our lives.  One example of this is my near constant struggle with my weight.  My doctors have told me that my RA and Fibro would be somewhat better if I were to shed the extra pounds.  The stress on my joints would be less and I would have more energy. 
I am currently in my third go round with Weight Watchers.  My struggle can not even remotely be construed as the program not working.  It absolutely works.  The first time I did it- I lost 20 lbs before I got side tracked by the insanity that was my life then and let it go to concentrate on work, school and moving.  The keys in the previous sentence were I got side tracked and Let it GO.  I stopped working the plan.  The plan did not fail me. 

Weight Watchers has several messages that are important to me.  First- they are not a diet, they are a lifestyle.  They give you the tools, they give you the information and it's up to you to make the changes in your life.  It is only your active participation that will determine how well it works for you.    The second is that they do not- in any way,shape or form, advocate deprivation.  In fact- they teach us that depriving yourself is a sure fire way to set yourself up for failure.  For me- that is 100% true.  When I am told I "can't" have something- it become all that I want.  Rather than deprive yourself- WW teaches you to make choices and to moniter your feelings, your portions and motivations.  Do you really want that ice cream sundae?  Is there a way to make it lower points?  Do you need a large or would a kids size do?  After the first, second, third bite- is it still as fantastic as you wanted or is your craving sated?  And if you are planning to have that sundae- what can you eat during the day leading up to it that will leave you enough points to have it.  There is no guilt involved unless you put it on yourself. 

The important thing is that I am the one who needs to be in the mindset to make the change.  I cannot "blame" the fact that my husband can eat anything and not gain an ounce.  I cannot blame that I am too busy, that I am stressed or any other outside factor.  The change has to come from ME.  Each and every meal, each and every snack, each and every sip, is a choice.  I have to stop making excuses and start using the tools that I have been given and work the program the right way.   Back to what Ms. Angelou said- I have to stop complaining and start changing what I don't like. 

I leave you with something my leader Valerie said yesterday that struck me:  "You need to celebrate the small things.  If you don't celebrate small victories you will forget them.  If you forget them-it's easy to take a step back."  It's time to stop beating myself up over the steps back, and focus and celebrate the small victories.   Only then will I be able to go at this from a positive mindset.  Only then will I win.   

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sometimes you need a swift kick in the A$$.

Every once in a while, usually just about the time that I am feeling sorry for myself, I get a nice swift kick in the pants to remind me that no matter how bad, how cranky, how whatever I am feeling- I have it pretty darned good. This time, my "reality check" came when I was not in a "mood" but actually just coasting through the weekend.

I won't bore you with the details but I will say that someone that I know is currently in the ICU in Louisville after having undergone emergency surgery on her stomach this weekend. It was not pretty; her pain was excruciating and I am very thankful that she made it through the surgery and has a good chance of recovery.

As I was saying a prayer last night for my friend, I couldn't help but give thanks for my health and that of my loved ones. In doing so I realized how very grateful I should be. No matter how sore or tired I am- I can get up, I am able to go to work; I am actively involved in my life; I am able to do so much more than I should be able to do. I just can't bring myself to complain about my aches and pains. Do I hurt? Yes. Am I exhausted? Pretty much all of the time. That said- I know that I can come home tonight after an 11 hour day at work, my honey and I can take my puppies out for their walk and then I can go straight to bed if I so choose. I can repeat that process the next two days- if I choose. This weekend I can spend the whole three days in bed- if I choose. For the aches and pains I can up my medication if I need to or I can apply heat or my TENS unit. I have options as to how I treat my condition- what a blessing that is!

It's hard sometimes; when you are hurting on a constant basis-to keep perspective. It's easy to get swallowed up by the pain and fatigue. That said- giving thanks for the health I do have and sending my thoughts and prayers to someone who is much worse off than I am is a good way to bring things back into focus and get me back into a positive state of mind.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Something that made me smile today.

I LOVE THIS!  Everyone should be as focused and exhuberant as this beautiful little girl. 

If this doesn't make you smile- well, you are just a big grump! LOL I wish I had learned affirmations so early.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Tens Unit

Recently my Rheumotologist and I discussed use of a cane when I am having a rough day.  She decided that it was time to send me back to the Physical Therapist and have me evaluated for any appropriate assistive devices.  At the end of my evaluation for PT, Debbie- my therapist- asked me if they had hooked me up to a TENS Unit during my last course of therapy.  From the blank look on my face, she ascertained that the answer was a big NO and so she thought we should give it a try.  She pulled a heating pad large enough to cover my back to my neck and hooked me up to the machine.  After 15 minutes- my back felt like I just undergone a full hour massage.  I was relaxed, I was not sore- I think I actually drifted off for a couple of minutes. 

According to Carol and Richard Eustice on the definition of a TENS unit is:

 "TENS" is the acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A "TENS unit" is a pocket size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals.

The electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain).

Those little electrical impulses made my muscles in my lower back feel like a thousand bucks.  Indeed- I had less problems going to sleep than I have had in months.  Debbie explained at our next meeting that a home unit could be use on any area that was giving me trouble.  Two appointments later- she sent me home with this unit.  The advantage of this unit is that it is fully portable.  I clips on to my belt area and I can wear it any time and any place.  It comes with the electrodes, alcohol wipes and a lotion for after so that the glue from the electrodes does not aggravate my skin.  In experimenting with it- I have discovered that for the maxmimum benefit I need to hook myself up (with the assistance of my husband) and lay down on a home heating pad.  That said- even when the ability to do that is not there- I can use it on my back and hips and walk around normally with some success. 

My insurance covers assistive devices 80 %.  If I choose to keep this one (and I will) they will automatically send me more electrodes on a regular basis.  The electrodes are reuseable several times but then the glue lessens and I won't have to fool around with trying to find them or ordering them once we see how often I go through them.  I have found that they work wonderfully on my shoulders as well; indeed the only place I had very limited help with the TENS was on my neck. 

I cannot recommend this particular device enough for anyone dealing with chronic pain.  It has been a real boon for me in this period between my MTX and the Orencia.  If you have the access- talk to a physical therapist about trying one.  You may actually find some much sought after relief. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Weight Removed

I have a very serviceable 1996 Buick Century.  It's not pretty, it's not flashy, it is literally a little old lady's car.  It came to me from my Great Aunt (RIP) who drove it 48000 miles before garaging it for four years.  I have owned it for just over two years now and it is creeping up on 68000 miles and suddenly- it is limping.  I put a new water pump in it last week because it started overheating and stalling on me and it is not overheating any longer but is still stalling.  The husband and I talked about it and we weren't sure that we wanted to get into potentially expensive repairs on it.  We went to a couple of different dealerships and ended up liking a used Ford Escape at one dealership and a brand new Kia Soul. 

Here's the thing.  We don't have the best credit rating out there- and in this economy the banks are pretty darned tight with financing.  We could buy the Ford- no problem- but the interest rate would be somewhat astronomical.  The Kia people know what we want to spend- and evidently are pretty sure they can get us the financing because they sent me home with the car for the weekend.  I am not banking (pun intended) on getting the financing at the dollar amount we can comfortably afford because we all know that most dealerships will try and talk you into a higher deal.  Needless to say- the beginning of my weekend was pretty darned stressful. 

In talking it over with my parents and with one another- we decided that if we are going to spend a lot of money on a used car (as much as I love the ESCAPE- it has 100,000 miles on it) we might be better off repairing mine- so the Escape is out.  If we don't get the financing on the Soul- a back up plan is now in place.  My parents are leaving soon for a wonderful three week journey and I am going to borrow Dad's truck if needed.  I had already planned on borrowing it to drive to Ball State and pick up fixtures for the store at the end of June so it might just be a bit earlier.  It is such a relief to know that if I am not driving that cute little vehicle next week- I can shoot down to E-ville and grab the truck so we don't have to scramble to trade Jim's truck back and forth between two crazy work schedules and my myriad of doctor's appointments. 

I am so very grateful to my parents- not only for this but for their advice on this matter.  I am lucky to have them. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you a list maker?

I make lists on a regular basis.  To do lists, grocery lists, gift lists, lists of phone calls I need to make, of emails I need to send- if there is a list that can be made for day to day life- I probably have made at least one.  It's all part of being a planner.  But there are two lists that I cannot seem to make- the Wish List and the Bucket List. 

I am sure that everyone knows what a Bucket List is- but in the off chance that you don't- it's the list of things that you want to do before you kick the bucket.  It's also a FANTASTIC movie with Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson and Sean Hayes- I recommend everyone see it.  I have been trying and trying to do these two lists for some time and I just can't commit.  What I am hoping to accomplish today is to figure out why I find this so hard. 

When I think of a Wish list- I take it very seriously.  I mean- I have a list of things to do when we win the lottery, but it's entirely different from a real Wish list.  A wish list for me has to be things that I really wish for that are attainable.  I think part of the problem for me is- I almost feel like making such a list would make me really ungrateful for all of the blessings that I have in my life.  I have been so fortunate that wishing for more seems greedy.  I have a wonderful family, we both have good jobs, a roof over our heads, clothing, food, medical care; we have enough to meet our needs and a few small luxuries- and so many people don't have one of these things much less all of them.  I am also torn in terms as to what kind of things I would wish for.  Can you tell that this gives me no small amount of stress? 

As for my Bucket List- of course the first thing holding me back is that if I make one- that means I have to acknowledge my own mortality.  I mean really?  Who wants to think about dying?  I am not one of those people who believes that we are closer to death each day.  I feel that we should live every day as if it is our last.  I don't want to creep toward death.  I want to enjoy every minute of my life.  What if I do make my bucket list and then I complete it?  Does that mean the I am ready to kick that bucket?  I surely hope not.  There is also a little bit of fear holding me back that directly correlates with my illness.  When I think of things that are "worthy" of going on a Bucket List- there is a little, niggling thought in the back of my head that wonders what happens if I am physically unable to complete the things on my list?  For example;  many, many years ago my father and I talked about taking a horse/donkey trip down the Grand Canyon for my 18th birthday.  When the time came- I was engaged to my husband, working full time and had other priorities in my life.  Now, almost 25 years later- I wish we had made that trip.  Not only do I wish we had made that trip; but it would be a great item for that Bucket List.  Of course- when we talked about that I had never even heard of Rheumatoid Arthritis; and Fibromyalgia was not on my radar.   The little voice in the back of my head says "Don't put THAT on your list- you would never make it!"  I know that I am physically more challenged than I was at 18- where will I be in another 25 years?  The little voice sneers at me and says "Are you going to take a wheel chair down instead of a horse?"  and that stops me in my tracks. 

So there we are.  That is my quandry. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On being prepared.

My assistant manager will be having surgery next week that will keep her out for 6 weeks.  What this means for me is that I will be re-structuring my work schedule for the time that she is out, working one "normal" day, three long days and one very short day.  It means that I will not have her there to bounce ideas off, to vent to, and to level me out.  She and I work very well together.  The things that make me crazy- don't make her crazy.  The things that make her crazy- don't bother me at all.  It means I will have to fly solo- but it will be okay.  She has done all of the things that she needs to do to not be inundated when she gets back so I don't have to worry about that part of her job while she is gone and that is a relief. I am also going to miss her personally.   The good thing is- we have known for a month that this is coming.  That means that I have had time to mentally prepare for long days.

As someone who is a planner- this is the best possible scenario for me.  Had this been an emergency situation and come from out of nowhere- it would really have thrown me for a loop.  I equate this with  those times that we can feel the onset of a flare before it goes full blown.  When I can feel it coming, I can take steps to lessen the severity as well as preparing myself mentally and emotionally for it before it takes over.  Somehow, when I can be ready for it; it lessens the power it has over my life.  I guess that means that I am prepared for my very own "work flare". 

While I was thinking this through and making my notes and putting my ducks in a row, I found myself wondering if there was a way that I could put together an emergency "kit" if you will of tricks that I have in my bag that would help when I have a sudden flare.  Things that would help me adjust more quickly when it happens back to where I am when I do feel it coming on.  Something to think about.....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finding non-drug items that help with the pain

I met with a Physical Therapist on Monday.  I think some signals were crossed because I was supposed to meet with an Occupational Therapist- but this mix up ended up being a wonderful thing.  She evaluated me head to toe, we went through some exercises and then she hooked me up to a TENS unit.  Oh MY!

A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit is a little device that has a battery, dual channel and several (in my case four) electrodes.  As it was my lower back that was hurting, she applied two electrodes to each side and then had me lay down on a heating pad and switched it on.  She handed me the unit and showed me how to increase the pulses and then set a timer for 15 minutes.  It was like having a very spot specific massage- but worked faster than any masseuse has ever achieved on my lower back.  I could very easily have fallen asleep right there as the sensation overrode the pain.  It was bliss.  When we finished, I was as loose as if I had had a full body massage.  The therapist is going to see if my insurance will cover a personal unit.  My fingers are virtually crossed.  I don't know if they will or not- but if they do- at this point in time it will go a lot way toward controlling my pain.  I seriously feel that every single one of us who has chronic pain should have one.  

There are other things that I use to increase my pain control and quality of life.  Heat has always worked at least temporarily.  Heating pads are nice (especially when I have time to just sit with one) but not very portable.  Thermacare is my favorite portable source of heat when I am hurting.  There are many different "store brands" and "off brands" to choose from but in my experience Thermacare is the most comfortable in terms of the covering on the wrap and in holding the cells close to the body.  I have also found that it maintains temperature longer than any of the others. 

Often in the winter you will see me with Hot Hands in my pockets and sometimes the sister product Foot Warm-up.  Though these don't last as long as Thermacare- they are designed for outdoor use by hunters and skiiers and give a nice heat that you can put in your pocket and/or shoes. 

Massage is also very helpful.  I enjoy going for a full body massage as often as I can.  Rather than targeting a specific site, my massage therapist will take care of the areas that are specifically troublesome but not neglect the rest of the body in the process. The important thing when choosing a massage therapist is to find someone who knows how to deal with RA and Fibromyalgia.  If they are not familiar with the diseases it can be too rough and not acheive the goal of loosening the muscles and just add a layer to the pain. 

I am very interested in what my fellow RA/Fibro'ers use besides the host of drugs they give us to control your pain.  I have considered Yoga and Arthritis Aquatics but haven't made the time in my schedule.  If there is something that YOU recommed- leave it in the comments so we can all learn from your win. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Arthritis Walk- Evansville, Indiana

This past weekend, my dad, my puppies and I did the 5k Arthritis Walk.  It was a beautiful day for the event.  Auggie was a rock star- everyone wanted pictures of him in his official Walk bandana.  The local baseball team- The Evansville Otters were represented and their mascot (Evan) was down on the ground playing with Auggie for photos. 

The "Princess" of the event was a beautiful little 8 year old named Payton.  This little girl had me in tears.  She said something that was so direct and child like that it made me realize just how different it is for a child to live with this disease.  The head of the event related this story.  Payton was diagnosed at 6 with RA.  Last year, Payton and her mom went to the foundation for information and to find out what was going on in their area.  Their first event was the Jingle Ball Run/Walk and they invited Payton to attend.  They must have talked about it at home and Payton decided she wanted to walk with everyone else.   At the end of the event, Payton turned to her mom and said; "I am ready for my cure now."  Her mom was puzzled and Payton said "I did the walk- I want my cure!  We were walking for a cure!"  That just tore my heart out.  I cannot imagine having to explain to my beautiful little girl, who is in so much pain on a regular basis, that just because she walked- it didn't mean she was going to be cured. 

I am so looking forward to my next event in September.  The Louisville Walk is just as much fun (and a lot more organized) and we are right in Slugger Field with all of the sponsors and they really jazz us up. 

As we walked- I thought of each and every one of my RA friends and my Fibro friends and every one of us that fights a chronic illness every day.  We are the reason I am out there walking-and you all keep me going. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Walking the Walk

This weekend is my first Arthritis Foundation Walk of the season.  It's a 5k to raise money and awareness of the hundreds of different Arthritis related illnesses out there.  This walk will take place in my parent's home town and my Dad is walking with me.  We are also going to try to bring Auggie on the walk as well.  Mom's going to have to go too so that if he doesn't behave we can hand him off to her :-) 

I have been participating in charity walks since 2004.  My first four walks were for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  I lost my beloved Granny to Breast Cancer in a round about way.  She went in for a routine lumpectomy and did not survive the operation.  The following year was my first walk.  I didn't know what to expect- and I was scared of the fundraising minimum (1800 per person) and not even remotely positive that as an overweight, 30 something smoker I would even be able to finish the whole 26.1 miles- but I was determined to do it in her memory.  But I did .  I raised the money, I walked the WHOLE walk and- I did it middle of the pack.  The event itself was emotional, it was inspiring and my accomplishment made me feel like I could take on the world- bruises and blisters not withstanding.   After the first walk- I had to do it again.  Over the course of four walks I (with a lot of help from generous friends) raised over $10,000, I walked  104.4 miles (not including training) and that sea of pink raised a LOT of money and awareness.  My third and fourth walks were after I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  It made it tougher- but I was determined to persevere.  I packed thermacare, I used a LOT of ice and I took advantage of the yoga sessions and massage on the overnights.

Since I moved out here- I am nowhere near the Avon Walks.  The closest one is Chicago and that is 8-10 hours away.  Because I love doing the walks in general- I have turned my attentions closer to home to the Arthritis Foundation.  I choose to do two walks each season- one in Evansville- one in Louisville.  I figure that I am capable of doubling my efforts and getting the word out about my disease on both sides of the state. 

I think that the reason that I walk is that it is something that I can do to make a difference.  Maybe not to one person- but I have, as a result of my fundraising efforts, had people ask me about my disease and have been able to educate them.  That means a lot to me.  And so- I will keep walking as long as I can.  Who knows- maybe I will even start doing two year fundraisers so I can go back to Avon every other year or so and walk Boston or Chicago.  All I know is that as long as my body lets me- you will see me out there getting the word out about these two wonderful foundations and these horrible diseases. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Paying it forward

Indiana's Governor, Mitch Daniels has declared this week Pay it Forward Week.  I am excited about this because I thought I had "missed" PIF day last Thursday.  Though I do agree that we should practice random acts of kindness every day- it's nice to spotlight it. 

For today- my three pay it forwards are:

I am sending a card to my former boss to thank him for taking a chance on me 7 years ago.  He taught me so much and believed in me- even when I didn't. 

I am stopping at the grocery on my way to work so while I am there I will stop at Starbucks and leave an extra $5.00 to pay for the next person's coffee along with a pay it forward card so they can pass it along.

I have created a sign to post in our breakroom to remind my colleagues that this weekend the letter carriers will be collecting food for a canned goods drive.  On my sign- I am offering to collect them for anyone who either can't or doesn't feel comfortable leaving them on their doorstep. 

I have so much to be grateful for in my life and I want to make someone else as happy as I feel if even for a moment.  My next challenge will be to think of more things to do over the week.  My goal- three things a day times three days.  One down- Two to go! 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thunder and Lightening and Sirens- Oh My!

I had planned on sleeping as late as my body needed this morning and then heading in to work for a long day, but Mother Nature had other plans for me.  Somewhere in between four and four-thirty the thunder and lightening were so close that the explosion and subsequent shaking of the building woke me from a dead sleep.  I sat right up in the bed; Auggie jumped into my lap and Harley looked up at me then rolled back over, snuggled up with Jim and went back to sleep.  The man, on the other hand, never even woke up.  I envy that. 

The weather today is very aptly representative of my mood.  I am feeling pretty stormy at the moment.  I have SO much to do to get caught up at work.  I was aware that I had a lot of work to do but didn't know how much more until after close last night.  By the time I left work at 8 - I was furious.  I will have to spend today re-doing hours of work before I can start on what I knew I needed to get done.  I had planned on doing four or so hours each day this weekend- now it's looking more like twelve today and some tomorrow. 

Right now I am trying to find my positive.  One is that I have enough time in the next 48 hours to get a good solid dent in what I need done completed.  Another is that if I can get this all done- I will be able to know that things are done properly and we are in decent shape.  I am still concerned about how I will approach remedying this situation.  I cannot continue to have to re-do work that has been done.  This is not the first time- I just have to figure out how to make it the last.  I am sure the hours of sweaty, physical labor will give me the time to figure it out.