Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What's your story?

I subscribe to quite a few newsletters online that send me different nuggets to think about each and every day.  Many of these I share here or on facebook so that I can see and think about them throughout the day.  This weekend, I got the opportunity to leave early for my folks and in my rush to pack and get out of town, I forgot my meds.  That means that while I had a lovely visit with my folks, my pain level skyrocketed.  Last night, while I was waiting and waiting and waiting for my meds to kick in, I got the following email message from "The Secret".

From The Secret Daily Teachings

You can limit yourself by the story you have created about you. Here are some simple examples of how the story we have created about ourselves can limit us:

I am no good at math. I have never been able to dance. I am not a very good writer. I am very stubborn. I don't sleep well. I am very moody. I struggle with my weight. My English is not good. I am always late. I am not a very good driver. I can't see without my glasses. It is hard for me to make friends. Money seems to slip through my fingers.

The moment you become aware of what you are saying, you can delete these things and rewrite your story!
I read it and then I read it again.  I see so much of myself in this particular message.  At the moment I opened this email I was kicking myself while I was down because I "so stupid to have forgotten my meds this weekend and put myself in so much pain."  I was kicking myself for not having tracked my foods properly for the weekend.  I was kicking myself because I have so very much to do to get ready for company to come and stay in just 12 days. 

  • I hurt too much to do anything and IT'S MY OWN FAULT. 
  • I just can't stay on track.
  • I will never be ready in time. 
  • There's too much to do.

I can't, I'll never, it's too much, I can't, I'll never, it's too much, I can't, I'll never, it's too much...

Can you see where this was going?  It started with the pain and my own forgetfulness and just spiraled from there.  I know in my heart that negative thoughts multiply so very much faster than positive thoughts.  I work very hard to try and keep that from happening and I fell right back into that trap yesterday. 

Well, it's a new day, a new beginning.  It's time for me to rewrite my story.  It's time to get back on the trail to positivity.  My new story?  Positive steps and hope. 

The pain is on its way back down and the weekend without the meds is over. 

     I have taken the meds I missed, put them in a container in my  "go bag" for when I go to my folks so that I can leave them there and this will never happen again. 

      I have switched my usual pot of coffee for a pot of pomegranate green tea this morning.  The antioxidents are great for my immune system and so far I am not  "missing" the coffee kick.  If I can do this two more days a week I will be onto a great start. 

     I have my yoga class this morning and I am very much looking forward to it.  It will help my body and it will put me in the right frame of mind for the day. 

     I have a busy week, but if I break my housework into small chunks, I can get a big start on the things that need to be done this coming weekend. 

The email has reminded me that NO ONE limits me but me.  This simple email message has given me hope.  Hope that I can turn things back around.  Hope that I can break through those limits and  (FINALLY) make my dreams come true.  Hope that I can break the cycle of growing a whole garden of negative thoughts from just one seed just by recognizing where I am going and telling myself to STOP.  Hope that I can tap into the strength that I know is inside and keep moving forward.  For that, I can start my day feeling very grateful.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My "Oprah Effect"

Love her or not, I have never met anyone who didn't have an opinion on the Oprah Show.  Everyone in my life knows that I admire her and what she has done in her life so it should come as no surprise that I share this post today, the day after the final episode.  I have said over and again since the time drew closer to the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show that at the end I would not watch the final episode (and as we learned that the last three episodes would be a surprise from her staff, I included those) until I had time that I was able to just sit and listen and cry.  I knew it would happen because this show, this woman, has been a big part of my life for 25 years.  So what better time to watch the last three shows when I am in the midst of an isomnia fueled night? 

I was young, I was just 19 years old, 7 months married, living overseas and thought I was so grown up when the Oprah Show debuted in 1986.  Since then I have learned that no matter how "grown" I think I am at any give point, I really do still have so much to learn. Since then I have invested 25 years in my marriage, we have raised a now 24 year old son, I have worked crazy hours, changed careers and changed locations, been through health issues and loss.  All the while, whether I taped it (I started taping it on VHS and now it's all digital O_o )  or watched live, there was always an hour in the day that I could forget about everything going on in my life.  Some days I laughed at silliness (Oprah and Gayle's Big Adventures anyone?) , some days I cried with people who had overcome great tragedy and adversity, some days I marveled at the generosity that she discovered in real people doing extraordinary things to give back and some days I just sat and listened because it seemed as if she were talking only to me.

My parents taught me many great lessons and Oprah has accentuated them: 

Over the years Oprah has made me think a lot about myself and what I am doing with my life and in my relationships.  My parents taught me that we all have choices and that we must take responsibility for our choices.  Oprah took that a step further and  taught me that I should "live my truth" and "live my best life" and that the two are not mutually exclusive.  I have learned that when I am faced with a big decision I should look inside because only I really know what the answer should be.  I have also learned that I can live my life on my own terms and that I can make those choices with grace and peace in my heart.  I have learned to listen to and look for the "aha moments" because they are there to teach you about yourself along the journey of your life. 

  Over the years Oprah has taught me the power of gratitude and the power of positivity and that the only limits were those I place on myself.  She introduced me to "the Secret" and that the universe is always giving back what you put into it.  Whether you call that Karma or The Law of Attraction or by some other name, like feeds like and returns it to you.  The power of gratitude and the power of positivity have determined how I handled the diagnosis if an incurable, chronic and "invisible" illness.  They have deterimed how I would handle the rest of my life with these same illnesses.  Without these gifts, I could very well have given in to the pain and the exhaustion, the doctor's visits and tests and very expensive medications and all of the challenges that come with a life with RA and Fibro.  I could have curled into a ball on my bed and pushed people away and had a good long pity party, constantly complaining about how I feel and how unfair it all is- we see it often within our community.  I didn't allow myself to go down that path only because I really listened when Oprah didn't just say the words but showed us time and again examples of how it is possible to overcome adversity if you look at things from a place where you are grateful.  She has taught me to really see how blessed I am to have the family that I have and to identify all of the many blessings in my life.

My parents gave me the love of reading and Oprah made it "okay" to be a big book geek.  She introduced me to Randy Pausch's "Last Lesson"and Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" and dozens of other books that I have devoured and that to this day mean the world to me.  With those books, and her "Book Club Dinner" shows, I learned to read not just for my own enjoyment but also with an eye on being able to truely discuss the books and share the books that I have read and their effects on me.  I have learned how to take these books and go back through with a critical eye and see how I may apply their lessons to my life. 

I could write for days on all of the different lessons that I have learned from the Oprah Show and from the actions that she takes in her life but if I had one more takeaway from my years of watching the show it is this:
She taught me that the possibilities are endless and that when you touch someone's life you leave a legacy.  She has left a legacy behind that has touched so many and for that I want to say "I will miss your daily presence in my life.  In the ending of your 25 year run, I feel like I am losing a friend. Thank you, Oprah! Here's wishing you the best from the bottom of my heart" 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Humpty Dumpty Sat On a Wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall....   Yep- I took a tumble this morning.  Our bedroom is on the second floor and it's hella difficult to cool.  The other half likes to put on 3 different fans and then cover up with 2 blankets (considering that I run a chronic low-grade fever- that's a bone of contention- but I digress) and then during the night we usually kick one off.

 About 3:15 this morning, I got up out of bed and got tangled in the blanket that was kicked to the floor.  You know how you see on television someone falling and it goes into slow motion?  Yeah- it was like that.  It felt like it took forever as I fell back, back, back. One minute I am making my way out of the room and trying to not step on my shadow of a dog, the next I am laying there, in the dark, on the floor, staring up at the ceiling with said dog across my neck licking my face like a treat. 

I am not badly injured.  Probably bruised my rear end but thankfully there is enough padding that it's not too bad.  What's interesting is that even though I was very aware that I was falling- I didn't use my hands to break it.  Not when I landed on my butt, not when my back hit, not when I knocked my noggin.  I think that's the first time I have realized how little I have come to rely on my hands first thing in the morning.  I have never thought about it.  I have just adapted over time without making a conscious effort.  So- I guess by falling this morning, I learned something about myself.  That's always a good thing. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Child's Pose

 Last Tuesday morning, as you may already know, I bit the bullet and took a Yoga class.  This morning I am incredibly glad that I did.  I am sure you are thinking "Six days later?  The effects don't last that long!" but that's not it.  Oh I have to tell you- after that class and until I got to work, I felt so good that I called my mom and compared it to having an hour massage.  Of course I got to work and immediately got hit with stuff that killed that effect very quickly- but for a little while it was a small slice of heaven.

     Getting back to this morning; my back has been spasming for several days.  I have this problem a lot.  The lower back, essentially from right hip to left, is constantly tight.  It is thought that RA does not target your spine and this is one of the reasons that my rheumatologist went down the road to diagnose Fibromyalgia.   The rest of my back is always sore as well.  It feels as if it always bruised to the touch and is a nagging pain.  I nailed all of the "touch points" on the fibro test on my upper back when she did it-yay me- such an over-acheiver. The lower back, however, gives me an immense amount of active pain.  Getting comfortable enough to get to sleep is so hard that I have had to change the times that I take my Neurontin and take both at night (rather than one in the morning and one at night and my rheumy is cool with it) so that I can get to sleep. This pain is at its absolute worst when I wake up in the morning.  We have changed mattresses, we have tried the pillow between the knees position (I tend to kick it out in the middle of the night), we have tried stacking my pillows at a slope and also no pillows at all and none of this helps for more than a day or two.  It's to the point that I am grinding my teeth all night again and that means I wake up with TMJ pain and my upper right quadrent of my mouth is inflamed and aching as well. This back pain and grinding teeth is a very large contributor to my insomnia.  The worst part of it is, it hurts so much that I can't sleep- but exhausts me at the same time.  I am not complaining.  I'm really not.  It's just a part of this whole stupid RA/Fibro combination.  I know that there are thousands who have it worse than I do.  I am so grateful for the fact that I can manage this to the point that I am still productive. 

     This morning, as I was laying in bed thinking about slowly getting up, I was thinking about last week's yoga class.  I was thinking about how good I felt last week when I left the class and having a silent pity party and it dawned on me that I could stretch out a little without waking up my honey.  If I moved slowly it would hurt less and it would also not wake him.  Inch by inch I moved into the "Child's Pose" and I could feel the lower back begin to contract and then stretch and relax.  I held that pose (think a modified fetal position, but up on your knees) for) a solid 2 minutes and as my back began to let go I really wanted to cry with relief.  I literally had to bite my cheek to stay quiet.  From there, I stretched back into the Cobra position (flat on your stomach and then push up on your arms to stretch your upper body toward the ceiling) and it brought even more relief.  I did this back and forth for about 10 minutes and when I was done, I was able to get out of my bed and walk almost normally down to the first floor where I am now. 

       I am also considering adding even more gentle exercise to the routine.  My Y offers aquatic Tai Chi on Tuesday and Thursday morning in the therapy pool.  I think it would be very helpful to be in the therapy pool for 2 hours twice a week.  Also- my local Parks and Rec department is offering a new belly dancing class for 5 weeks June to July and as long as I modify if needed- it will be good to strengthen my back and belly. I can rearrange my schedule slightly to accomodate the classes and hubby is supportive of my Wednesday night class (the Belly Dancing) so everything should be covered.  So that is my story.  That is why I am feeling so much gratitude for that first class last Tuesday morning and I cannot wait for the next one tomorrow.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


"I admire the fact that the central core of Buddhist teaching involves mindfulness and loving kindness and compassion."

"Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience."
Psychology Today

Mindfulness is one of the strategies in finding peace that I am just not good at yet.  I am too busy multi-tasking to slow down and spend the time it takes to really be mindful.  In fact, since I started this post I have stopped to paint my nails, I am watching Breakout Kings, I searched the actor in the Motorola Xoom commercial (didn't find it), checked twitter several times, got dressed, did my hair (such as it is), went back and put on makeup, got something out for dinner and searched travel stuff for my husband and looked at empty lots on Trulia.  It's very hard to be in the moment when you are doing 14 things at once.  If you read my last post, I am very easily distracted.  In fact, if I weren't able to successfully manage the multi-tasking, I would suspect I had ADD.  In doing all of this I have "wasted" so much time that I only have about 10 minutes left before I have to head out to work for an orientation morning.  

Psychology Today describes practicing mindfulness as:

 Mindfulness, paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides, doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Equally, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many times we have a hard time staying simply present with happiness. We turn it into something more familiar, like worrying that it won't last or trying to keep it from fading away.

When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.

Though they suggest that you begin by sitting quietly and pay attention to your body and your breath, one of the other suggestions is to start with a particular task to practice your mindfulness until you feel able to do it without bouncing all over the place.  For me, a good starting place would be with my dinner meal.  I tend to sit at my computer, fiddling around on Twitter or Facebook, watching television etc while I eat.  Next thing I know, the meal is gone and I don't feel like I ate at all.  My challenge to myself is - for the next week beginning tonight, I turn off the tv, walk away from my computer, sit at the table and really pay attention to my meal.  Pay attention to the flavors, pay attention to how I feel eating it and not let anything disturb me. 

What that means is that today, before I even think of eating my meal- I need to empty my table and create a nice space that is not filled with "stuff".  Our table- because we rarely use it- is somewhat of a dumping ground for groceries and is the place where I have all of my magazine and the "stuff" I need to rip them apart.  My recipe storage container is there, my folders, my scissors, a basket of magazines and a note pad if there is a website or idea that I need to get back to so I don't save the whole article.  We have a big bowl that has my apples in it, pieces of the steamer which needs to be stored and loaves of bread (his and hers-lol) as well as the storage containers that I routinely use to take my lunch to work.  SO- if I want to mindfully eat my meal- all of that stuff has to go.  I guess I will be decluttering this afternoon after we get back from lunch and the optomotrist.  Looks like this will be a productive Saturday if I want to be able to make this work. 

Have a happy Saturday! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thank Goodness it's Friday

Cause I have a million things to do.  My dearest friend just booked her tickets to come visit again this summer and I am super excited.  BUT- considering that my housekeeping skills were never that great before my RA/Fibro - that means that I have a LOT of work to do to make sure the house looks good before she gets here in...22 days.  I am not even going to enumerate all the things I want to get done- because it would make me tired just making and looking at a giant list.  Plus- if I have a lot of things on my list- I tend to start one thing, get distracted by the next and the next and then not finish anything. 

So the plan is a small list at a time.    Today is all about laundry.  First I am going through my closet and going to ruthlessly get rid of clothes I cannot wear.  I figure that when I DO lose the weight- I will deserve new clothes anyway.  So- out with them.  I am keeping one or two of my favorite pieces- items that I cannot find anymore- and the rest will be gone.  THEN- it's time to fold the clean laundry.  Since I will actually have closet and drawer space again- there will be plenty of room to put them away.  IF I get that done before time for dinner, I will move on to straightening the bookcases in the guest room.  That's a low priority thing but will need to be done eventually. 

Tonight, before I go to bed, I will make a list for tomorrow, then tomorrow for the next day and so on.  That's why I am grateful for Friday- I can get a jumpstart on this and get ready for vacation. 

Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reflections on being a "Mom"

I am feeling very reflective this morning.  This happens every year on my son's birthday.  His affect me far more than my own.  24 years ago, when he was born, I was 19 years (and 10 mos) old and thought I knew EVERYTHING!  I was married, living overseas with my husband, and thought I was just so grown up.  When we decided that it was the perfect time to have a baby, I thought I was totally prepared for this adventure.  I realized pretty quickly that I was 100% wrong.  I got my first inkling of that when I was in the midst of labor and just plain wanted my own Mom who was stateside.  The next clue was when they put that little (6lb 12oz) baby into my arms and it dawned on me that this beautiful creature was relying completely on me (and the hubbs-but at that moment he was calling back to the states to give the news and it was just me and the baby) for his care and raising.  In that moment it was just he and I in my room at the hospital and I was just staring down at his little face, his little fingers, his little toes and overwhelmed with how much love I felt for this person that I had known for just a few hours.  I knew in that moment that I wanted to do everything I can to give him the best life possible and the enormity of it all crashed down and just plain terrified me. 

I can look back now and see things that I would most assuredly change in the way we raised him.  We definitely made our share of mistakes along the way but in the end he is healthy, smart, well adjusted, loving, and kind.  I couldn't really ask for anything more.  Don't get me wrong- we disagree on some of his choices.  He makes me absolutely pull-my-hair-out crazy at times, but he knows who he is and is willing to make his own mistakes without expecting us to bail him out of them.  I often said when he was a teenager that he was both the love of my life and the bane of my existance and it was completely true. 

On the other hand I can be so very grateful that he is willing to stand on his own (even if he is a thousand miles away ),  and that he calls me on a regular basis just to say "Hello" and to tell me about his day and never-ever-fails to say "I love you."  I can be grateful that he never went through the "Dont hug/kiss me in public" phase.  I can be grateful that we are as very close as we are and that he's not afraid to make it known.  I can especially be grateful for all of the lessons that he has taught me over the years.  More than anything else I can be grateful that though anyone can be a "Mother", he made me a "Mom".


Happy 24th birthday Joshua.  I love you with all of my heart.   

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When did I become a chicken?

     When you grow up in a military family, it's a given that you move around a lot.  In fact, from K-12 I went to 13 schools and we didn't start moving until I was seven years old.  Somehow, we seemed to always move in the middle of the school year.  The good thing is that I always had my sisters.  Having sisters in that situation is like having built in friends.  Even with a slight age difference (3 & 4 years), even when you don't necessarily always get along, you still have each other.  Remember the old "No one calls my sister an XYZ but me!" gag?  Well- it's true.  Even when you are fighting at your worst, you stand together against the world. 

     The other thing about being in a military family is that you become very accustomed to walking in to new situations.  A new base, a new school, a new set of friends, a new life comes with every move.  No matter what direction in which you have been moving, you get a chance to start over- and that's a pretty great opportunity.  When you are in the moment, you really don't realize how great it is, but as an adult I will be eternally grateful.  I got to see places that so many people never even dream of and meet so many people and I just took it for granted because it was my "normal".   I have had people remark over the years that they can't imagine that life and that it must have been so hard.  I never thought of it as hard or easy, it was just our life.  There are those who absolutely those who hate that way of life and I am absolutely positive that in the moment I protested my face off about leaving my friends and hating it at the time but that was just a kid being a kid.  In reality I learned that while there are those that moving around makes pull inside themselves and there are those that it makes very outgoing.  I have always fallen into the outgoing category.  You have to be outgoing if you are going to work with the public and so it has served me well. 

     For many years my ability to adapt to new situations carried over into my adult life.  If you ask my dad he will flat out tell you that I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life.   To that end; as a kid, I have worked in corn fields, bagged groceries and was a waitress, worked in an office supply store as the floor help and creating window displays.  As I got older I worked as a cashier and in the cash office of our Commissary (think military grocery store), worked as a warehouse supervisor when we were overseas, came back and did more waitressing and bar tending, worked as a night auditor, been a reservations manager and front office manager in the hotel industry, worked in every front of the house position in restaurants and nightclubs and dabbled in back of the house, was a dental assistant for 9 years and most recently while managing the same restaurants and nightclub, got back into retail in the college bookstore arena.  In between I dabbled in marketing for a semi-pro football team, managing charity poker games and writing. Heck, I even started college at 38 and I LOVED it!  I didn't complete my degree because we moved out here but while I was in college I worked two full time jobs, was still raising our teenager, trying to be a good wife and taking a couple of classes a semester to knock out my gen-ed requirements and as hard as it was to juggle it all, I thrived in the chaos.  My dad's famous (in our family) quote is "You never could decide if you wanted to be a ballerina or a cowboy."  I have proven him right time and again with the schizophrenic direction my life has taken but I have always felt comfortable doing whatever it was that I was doing at the time and always been comfortable trying something new. 

     I can't pinpoint exactly when all of that started to change but I know that it was in the last few years.  It could have been turning forty, it could have been a professional situation that shook my confidence a little maybe more than I thought, it could be that I like my life these days and I am loathe to change that; but I find that recently I have been very hesitant to start new things.  I have been thinking long and hard about the physical aspects of my job and what I can do to remain productive as long as possible without hurting my colleagues due to my illnesses.  It's not fair to them to have them (who are all significantly older than me and have their own health challenges- sadly, the person who is my mother's age is in the best shape of anyone in the group) do more and more of the hard manual labor while I ease back to protect my joints and muscles.  I know that I will not be able to last another 13 years to hit my 20 with this company in the position that I am currently in so I have been really trying to explore what career path I can take next so that I can avoid the whole disability process as long as possible.  The problem is- I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up or how to make it happen here.  I have said for years that I my dream job would be to sit at home, in my pj's and get paid to read.  That leads me to editing or reviewing but there's not a lot of opportunity for that in this area and I don't want to leave.  This leaves me in a quandry as to how to reconcile what I would love to do with what is really feasible and I have been letting it hold me back from taking any steps at all. 

     What started my thinking in this direction this morning is the fact that I am feeling frozen in my current situation in part because of that quandry.  I don't want to start taking (and paying for) college classes that may not lead me down the right path and I feel like something else is holding me back but I don't know what it is that is standing in my way.  I realized over the weekend that one way for me to ease back into taking classes is to do something that I think I would enjoy.  I looked into different possiblities and decided that I could rearrange my schedule and try a yoga class.  As a member of my local YMCA, there are many classes that I can choose from and on Tuesday mornings there is a beginner's class.  I contacted my assistant manager to ask if we could change our schedules (we each work one night a week) to accomodate taking this class.  I contacted the Y to make sure it was an ongoing class and not one that you begin on a certain date and go for X number of weeks and to make sure I didn't need to bring any specific equipment.  I talked it over with my hubby who is supportive of me upsetting our "routine" to take this class.  Everything is in place to make this happen and yet this morning I am feeling a lot of trepidation about going.  I cannot figure out what it is that is making me feel so afraid.  It's a beginner's class- it's not like I am going in cold to an advanced class and trying to keep up.  It's the local Y so it not like I am going to some studio where everyone is tall and thin and in shape and have been doing this for years.  It's not that Yoga will hurt me in general or in my life with RA and Fibro, in fact it will help.  I just don't know where this fear is coming from, I only know that I don't like it at all. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A New Blog to Follow- Thanks Twitter!

I checked my gmail account this morning and got a couple of emails from Twitter showing that I had new followers.  Now- I may not spend a ton of time on there, I may not be able to interact with every follower, but I do check out every single bio that comes my way to see if they are someone that I would like to follow back.  Half of the time they are someone that I already follow and I love it when we follow back and forth because then I don't feel so...awkward if I tweet them.  Sometimes it is someone new, someone who has something to say that I find so terrific that I have to follow them back and learn more.  For anyone who is a detractor of life in 140 characters; that is the gift of Twitter-  finding like minded people that you may never have been exposed to if not for this little "Twitterverse". 

This morning I was "introduced" to @mojonimbus who is an experienced RN who was recently diagnosed with RA.  While I hate to hear that ANYONE has been brought into what I think of as the "club that no one wants to join", I LOVE to see another positive voice out there.  Reading her blog was a little like stepping into my own mind.  Of course, I wanted to add her to my blog list on the right and while I was there, I cleaned out a few that have not been posted to in a year or so. 

I encourage you to check out the list on the right for those that have been updated in the last 6 months.  I put the 6 month limit on them because the older blogs are more personal to my life and are not for everyone.  Some may not apply to your life- I know that- but I think you will find that they all have something to say that may touch your heart.  If you read nothing else, I beg you to please, please read two posts.

 Please read RA Guy's Sixty Second Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis.  It is the very best way to look at and share with your friends and family what this illness is and means for you and your body.  After that, read Mojonimbus's Become the Muse.  This one contains an insider's view of how to cultivate a terrific doctor/patient relationship.  It's hard, especially in this age of instant gratification, to be dealt the hand of an illness that leaves you in pain 24/7/365.  We want to be out of pain and we want it now, but that is not the reality of living with the host of chronic pain illnesses and injuries.  No doctor, no matter how good they may be, will be able to hand this to you.  No patient; no matter how knowledgeable, no matter how informed, no matter now much they work to be "empowered" will achieve this alone.  This post will teach you how to be an empowered patient without alienating the people that are there to care for you. 

If you know of other blogs that are positive and make you think, please suggest them to me.  I would love to expand this list and find more thoughtful and entertaining blogs to read for myself.  You can email them to me at ChronicallyPositive@gmail.com and I will check them out as soon as I get that email. 

Now it's time to think about getting dressed and on with the day.  We are hoping that the rain will hold off long enough to get in a visit to the Louisville Zoo this afternoon.  Hubby and I love walking around zoos and seeing the animals doing their thing.  Louisville has enough a new exhibit called Glacier Run that we have been looking forward to seeing and this will give me a solid mile+ walk while we meander around.    Have a terrific weekend all!

Straying off the path and getting back on track

It's funny.  When I spend a lot of time focusing on what I am going to post here about, it makes me focus on my gratitude and positive steps in a very concrete day.  As I read back through my index I see where I have been posting less frequently and somewhat moving away from what I intended this blog to be when it began.  When I look at the corresponding dates, I can see where the stress level has been rising and where I have been allowing more negativity into my offline life.

I need to turn things around and get back on track.  In order to help me do that, I am working on another series in the vein of my "42 Ways in 42 Days" series I did almost 2 years ago.  I think it might be a good idea to kick it off again on my birthday, that way I have plenty of time to figure out in what direction I want to take this.  Kicking around most heavily in my brain at the moment is something along the lines of a "44 Life Lessons" series.

I am going to keep on blogging and let this one simmer a bit but look for a new series in July!  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On Bucket Lists and Living Life to the Fullest.

I am in the process of reimagining my Bucket List.  If-  heaven forbid- you have never heard of The Bucket List; it's the list of things that you want to do before you kick the bucket.  It's also a terrific movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson and if you haven't seen it- see it and bring the tissues.

 I think we should all have a bucket list.   Some of the folks I have talked to about this have been resistant because it seems morbid to them.  The way I see it, we can't avoid death, it will get us all eventually.  So why not have a list of things to strive for before you reach that inevitibility?  Long before the movie came out, I was thinking about what I wanted to do in my life before I died.  What really started me thinking about this was actually Tim McGraw's song "Live Like You Were Dying".  I have included the video here for you if you haven't seen/heard it. 

I have to admit, just watching it makes me cry and I can't even belt it out without choking up it still has such an effect on me.  As I sit here, with it playing on my other browser, tears are streaming down my face.  That tells me that I haven't reached that point yet that I have gotten it right. 

I went sky diving

I went Rocky Mountain climbing

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu

and I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter

and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying

and he said someday I hope you get the chance

to live like you were dying.

I don't want to find out that I have a terminal illness before I start living my life the way I should and doing things that I always wished I had.  I ask myself, why wait until you are under the gun and not able to really enjoy these things you want to do?  Aren't we all terminal? 

I have a lot of work to do on myself- I am the first to admit it.  Slowly I am finding more and more about what's inside.  Gratitude journals, inspirational books, this blog, my other writing; they all give me insight into who I am and who I really want to be in this life.  The beginning of this journey is my diagnosis but when I am working on "me"- I don't really think much about my illnesses.  I give thanks that they have given me the imepetus to start this and to make changes to my life but they don't factor into my bucket list or who I see myself becoming.  I will not allow them to stand in my way of living my life to the fullest- I will only allow them to modify the way I go about it. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Fun Blog to Share

Good Morning-

As you know ,I am always looking for something that brings positivity into my life and makes make me smile.  Today I have a blog (and associated book) to share with you.  I heard about this on The Gayle King Show on Oprah Radio on my way to my folks last weekend and I have taken time to read a post every day.  I have signed up for the updates in my email - interestingly enough they seem to show up just as my energy is flagging. 

  Today's blog highlight is.....1000 Awesome Things 

When the author began this site, the idea was to celebrate all of those little things that happen in our lives that brighten our days if only for a moment.  In 2010 Neil Pasricha's little blog idea was published as "The Book of Awesome"  which quickly became a bestseller and very recently- his second book The Book of (Even More) Awesome came out. 

I suggest you stop by the blog and whether you start at 1 and work your way through or if you pick them randomly- go through the posts and see how many make you think "Oh yeah!  That is awesome!" 

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Almost Mother's Day!

I know I have dedicated posts to her before- but my Mom really is terrific.  She's smart, she's funny (you should sit with us at church- serious giggles at times), she's loving and she's genuine.  She taught me (and I am sure my sisters as well) that we can make mistakes and we can learn from them.  She taught me to take responsibility for my life and to never stop reaching for our dreams.  So what could be better than having a mom like mine?  Being a Mom of course!

24 years ago (May 10th, 1987) there was a bit of a...difference of opinion about Mother's Day.  You see, I was just over a week away from our son being born- so hubby was of the opinion that I was not yet a Mom.  In MY opinion- I had been carrying him for 39 weeks- dang it all- I already was a Mom!  Looking back- the whole thing was a little silly but when you are 19, living overseas and away from your family, it's the little things I guess. In case you are wondering- I won that battle-lol.  Little did I know that it would be only one of MANY silly little battles over the years, first with the other half and then with the darling son. Hair, clothes, school, rules, you name it, he pushed my buttons if he thought he could- but always with a large thread of  love holding us together.   Looking back- I wouldn't have changed any of them because he taught me to not sweat the small stuff and chose which battles were worth fighting.

I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to be a part of the "club" that is being a Mom.  On Sunday, I not only honor my own Mother but also Josh for making me a Mom as well.  I only hope I did half the job she did.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meet The Barkingtons!

     It's been a rough week.  Today will be an extremely long day.  No matter how tired I am, no matter how sore I am, I have my "babies" to come home to.  They are so happy to see me come through the door.  They love up on me when I am down -and when I am up.  They keep me moving when I don't feel like it.  I am so much better for having them in my life.  Everyone should be so blessed to have a little puppy love.  With that, I give you Harley (my 20lb Yorkie/Schnauzer mix) and Auggie (my 20lb Pekingese/Cocker mix). 



Harley and I

Auggie and my Dad

Not to discount REPUTABLE breeders- but there are too many that are not reputable.  If you are looking to add a four legged loved one to your life, please begin your search at and support your local shelter.  They do great work and mixed breeds most often get the best of each breed's traits.  If you are in the Kentuckiana area, my babies came from the Animal Care Society- a no kill shelter in Louisville. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's holding YOU back?

     As you know I have been on a big introspection kick of late.  Thinking a lot about my goals and dreams and how to reach the goals and how to re imagine my dreams to fit the curve balls life has thrown my way.  You already know about my goals for the controllable part of my health.  Did you know that when I was a kid I wanted to be a writer?  I didn't quite know what that meant but I imagined myself sitting at home clacking away on my typewriter creating stories like the ones that I loved to read.  I also wanted to be an actress.  I spent a lot of time, while reading those amazing books, imagining different ways that I could say the words on the page.  Being a military brat and moving all the time gives you ample opportunity to reinvent yourself and acting would give that opportunity on a regular basis. Inside I knew that acting was a very long shot so I kept going back to writing.   I imagined myself living in a city somewhere, just me and my pets, writing all day, eating dinner out every night, wearing designer duds and just plain being "fabulous".  Think Sex and the City from a teenage, 70's and 80's mind. Then life happened and I tucked those dreams away with my childhood. 

     Fast forward over 25 years and here we are.  I have been married for 25 years, raised a pretty terrific young man, worked hard, at times played equally hard, and have tried to live my life without regrets.  Are there things I would do differently?  Absolutely, but I only have one regret- and that is not making the move out here a)while I could have spent more time with my granny and b) the "child" were younger and would have had to come with us.  I have learned some very hard lessons along the way but they are just that- lessons that have shaped my life. 

     One thing I realized this weekend is that while I will never be 25 again and 45 is approaching faster than I would like, though I will never be Nora Roberts or James Patterson, Steven King or JK Rowling, I have written and published an article in my college magazine as well as my little e-book, I have written this blog for over two years now with no designs on stopping, and I have another e-book ruminating in my brain.  It looks like I have, while just doing something that I enjoy and without really thinking about it, fallen back into chasing that writing dream.  The only twist is that I have been working in the non-fiction arena rather than writing that Great American Novel.   

     While I was working through this goals and dreams thing this weekend I was wondering what it is that stalls my progress.  In terms of my goals, it would be easy to "blame" my RA and my Fibro for not exercising- but that would be a cop out.  Yes, my illnesses make it very hard for me to get out there and exercise like you see them work out on The Biggest Loser or Heavy, but that has nothing to do with my eating and it's sure as heck not stopping me from walking, from doing a yoga video at home, from "playing" on my Wii-fit.  It would be and has been easy to blame stress and the fact that my other half is a smoker for not quitting smoking but really- last time I was down to 1-2 cigarettes a day and vaping happily away on my electronics when I went back to smoking.  So what is stopping me?  What is holding me back from achieving my goals and really pursuing my dreams? 

     I think maybe part of it is the work.  I think about how much more work it takes for me to lose even a pound now that I am in my forties, much less the over 60 I would like to lose and it just makes me feel exhausted.  It makes me feel exhausted the way even thinking about spring cleaning makes me exhausted.  Confession- the best gift I could ever give myself would be to hire a housekeeper one day a week- I just plain SUCK at housework.  I think that maybe, despite the fact that when it comes to my job I am a workaholic, I expend all of my energy in that direction and have very little left for the rest of my life.   Our jobs are the way we support our family and for so many years it was such a struggle (even now it's not quite a cake walk) that I had to pour my energies into doing the best job possible to make sure that I kept that job and it's just become the way I work.  At one time, I gave myself time once a week for real "me" time (seeing my best friend/hair guru on alternating week from a mani/pedi).  At one time, I was on the go so much that I was easily clocking my 10,000 steps a day without having to work for it- it was part of working two crazy jobs on my feet constantly.  For a long time, working in the restaurant world, I had someone else to cook my meals when ever I worked who was a professional and could suggest great meals that were healthy as well and when I was home, the rug rat would eat healthy stuff as well as the "crap" that my hubby enjoys so I could cook whatever I wanted to suit us all and it would get eaten.   These days there is not too much "me" time- and I most assuredly don't have my standing vanity appointment.  I prefer to spend my time at home with my husband, my puppies and my parents whenever I can.  These days I alternate between 3000 steps and 13000 steps- depending on what's going on with my job.  These days, with only two of us eating- one who needs to lose weight and one who could stand to gain at least half of what I would like to lose; cooking a meal that could do both things is a trial.  All of these things that are going on these days are 100% my choice.  Where I direct my energies is my choice.  I just need to figure out how to  balance the old me and the new me and still be at peace.  For the most part I LIKE who I have become, I just have to find a way to fit in the work I need to do to reach my goals with the rest of my life.  I have to stop letting the excuses get in the way.  I have to stop letting that little voice bully me. I have to get past that little voice that reminds me that my illnesses are always there and if I do too much I could set it off.  When I do that- I am letting the RA and Fibro control part of my life and I have worked so hard to not let it be all that I am about that I have to break this last hold.

     As for my dreams, those are a bit more complicated.  The first thing that is holding me back is a bad case of the "what if's".  What if I am not good enough?  What if I start and just can't finish?  What if I don't deserve to reach my dream?  The second thing is that I am not quite sure how to rework this huge dream to fit where I am now in my life.  I will never be that picture that I had in my head when I was a young girl.  Then again, not many people are.  Writing is not quite as glamorous as I had imagined.  Okay- it's just a job like many others.  I have had a wonderful reality check, courtesy of social media, by interacting with one of my favorite authors M.R. Sellars.  Murv keeps it real.  He is from and still lives in the Midwest.  He loves his wife and child.  He talks about cooking and laundry, housework, deadlines and all of the things we all deal with every day.  He's funny, he's engaging,he's creative and he is just a "normal guy".   He just happens to write books that I really enjoy for a living.  Just "knowing" him has allowed me to see that I don't have to give up what I have if I want to chase that dream again, I just have to re imagine what that dream looks like and what I want that dream to be. 

     Ironically enough, I received my "Thought for Today" Oprah.com newsletter and the title of the newsletter today was "Who are You Meant To Be?"  Since I actually started this blog post yesterday and have an unexpected day off today, I sat down and opened this post, read through what I had written yesterday, minimized the window and opened my email to see that sitting in my inbox.  It was a sign for me that I am on the right path.  I haven't read the articles yet.  I didn't want to read them until after I finished this post because I didn't want them clouding my thoughts while I work through this.  This blog helps me get my thoughts in order.  For me it's like having a conversation with you so I have to focus in order to make myself understood rather than letting things swirl around the way they usually do in this brain of mine.  This blog has been a training ground for me.   It has allowed me to find my voice.  When I wrote Chronically Positive and in the new work (tentatively titled Chronic Living) I write exactly as I write here.  I write from my heart and I write as if we were just talking.  When I think back, when I tried to write fiction,  I had such a problem with whether I would write in first person, whether I would narrate or whether I could just tell a story.  Dialogue killed me.  It just wasn't good because I could not find my footing.  What a gift you have given me by engaging in this blog and helping me find the way I was meant to write.  Am I a genius, nope.  Am I the best writer in the world?  Not on your life.  Do have room for improvement- absolutely!  But I am learning and when a post strikes you enough to comment or to share it with others, you show me what works and for that I am always grateful. 

     So now I have figured out what it is that's holding me back.  I just have to find the strength to get over those obstacles and achieve all that I desire.  So what's holding YOU back from your goals and dreams?  If you have reached them, how did you do it?  Where did you pull the strength from that allowed you to reach for the stars?  My newsletter that I mentioned before begins with a quote and I leave you with the quote from today because I think it's so very appropriate:

“Only by owning who and what you are can you step into the fullness of life.”

                                                                                                           — Oprah

I think I am well on my way to owning it, and I am very much looking forward to stepping into the fullness of my life.  I cannot express how grateful I am for having this arena and for you being my sounding board.  No matter how often I post, I give thanks for this forum and that anyone actually reads it Every. Single. Day.