Thursday, April 26, 2012

What have you let slide?

     Tuesday morning I had a schedule mix-up and found myself at work with an extra couple of hours on my hands.  Additionally, I had received a small, unexpected check in the mail.  Normally  I would have just knuckled down and gotten some work done but I decided to treat myself to a break.  Having come back from the Florida trip with the same pasty-white legs was a bummer and the weather going up and down, up and down, up and down is not particularly good for my psyche so I decided to go to a tanning salon.

      Yes, I know the risks, but I am a firm believer that the cocoon of warmth and Vitamin D in a 15 minute (and eventually 30 minute) session in a tanning bed can change how I feel both physically (the heat makes my joints nice and loose) and mentally.  Living in New England, I spent at least one session a week "fake baking" all winter long and it really helped me get through those long cold months.  It was the difference between staying on an even keel or giving in to Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter months.  

     When the bulbs came on, I laid down on that bed, pulled the top closed and I let out a deep sigh like "Ahhhhhhhhh".  I had forgotten how much I just enjoyed that brief time when no one and nothing can interrupt me and I can be alone with my thoughts.  While I was laying there, I started thinking about the other things that I have "let go" in the last few years.

      I had acrylic nails for close to 10 years but gave those appointments up when I could no longer handle the tech manipulating my knuckles every other week to get the fill done properly.     I really enjoyed the two hours that I would sit there in a heated massage chair, feet in a spa bath and having my legs, hands and arms massaged as the tech worked on me.  I *could* go for a basic manicure but I break my nails constantly at work (so they are just not cute!) and I do just as well painting them at home rather than having a tech move my hands in directions that are just not comfortable.  I don't know why I gave up my pedicures in the process- probably because the mani and pedi just go hand in hand in my brain.

     In that same 10 years, one of my dearest friends went through Cosmotology School and became a really great hairdresser.  For quite some time, I would go on the weeks opposite my mani/pedi and have her do something with my mop.  Sometimes she would cut, sometimes she would color, sometimes she would just do an intricate updo that would last a couple of days with minimal modification- sometimes all three. Even when I didn't have the time and money for bi-weekly appointments, I had regular appointments for upkeep. She had carte blanche to do whatever she wanted with my head.  I trusted her implicitly and and in the less than 2% of the time I was not crazy about what came out, she would fix it asap.  Best part of it was that same 2 hours where I would be able to sit and be pampered while spending time with my friend.  While she had my permission to do whatever she wanted- I am VERY leery of having anyone else touch my hair.  The consistency (?) is very thin, but there is a lot of it.  It doesn't hold a curl and with the wrong type of color- I pull red like crazy which I HATE.  I am not a cute red-head.  It is also currently at my shoulders at the shortest point which is terrific because I can just toss it in a bun on those mornings that the hands don't work and I am afraid to lose any length.  In fact, looking back, the last real hair cut I had (my mom's gal did a trim  to clean up the ends over Thanksgiving weekend but there was no shaping or anything done) was when I traveled back to Massachusetts 14 months ago.  O_o

    The last thing that I have given up is regular massages.  I had several folks who worked for me who went through school to be Licensed Massage Therapists.  When in school they had to have practice clients for a significant number of hours outside the classroom before they could test.  I was always game to be a "practice dummy" for them and do the paperwork so that they could get credit for the hours.  They were not allowed to charge anything but I would always throw them at least a $20 for their time because it was just so relaxing and it was definitely worth it to remove the stress.  I really can't do that here.  First, I don't know anyone going through school- in fact I have not found a school near me- but also, I am fearful that with RA and Fibro, if they are not intimately familiar with how to treat someone with those illnesses they would do more damage than good.

     Reading through this I had to laugh at how completely high maintenance I sound- and I can own that.  When I was working 60-80 hours a week on top of being a wife and a mom and a student- I needed that "me" time to stay sane.  While I really MISS those things, I am not as in need of "me" time with my slower pace.  Unfortunately (?) having spent that 15 minutes in a tanning bed yesterday has reignited the desire to start pampering myself again. I may not NEED it, but I definitely want it.   In order to be able to justify the expense of both time and money, I am going to have to do a couple of things:

  • Give myself permission to go ahead and buy packages of tanning trips and use them often enough that the money spent is less than if I went on a visit by visit basis (It's $6.00 a visit individually and $30/month for the lowest level bulb beds)
  • Set several managable goals to reach to reward myself at three different levels
    • One for the mani/pedi
    • One for the hair
    • One for a massage
  • Start "interviewing" hairdressers and massage therapists to find someone that I not only click with but knows how to handle my particular challenges.  
  • Budget in those expenses- and if I don't meet the goals for the month, save the money for the future.

What have you given up?  Do you want to get it back?   What kind of plan can you make to add back the things that you have "lost" and miss?  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just use the good dishes already! I dare you.

     Do you remember when you were engaged and did the whole wedding registry thing?  We didn't register for a lot, after all, we were 18 and 20 and all of our friends were our age or younger.  The only place we went "expensive" was when we were choosing dishes, pots and pans.  When it came to choosing those, I had my heart set on a set of Mikasa .  At that time, Mikasa was pretty spendy so we got just a few pieces.  It was good thing really.  Before our 10th anniversary, they had all chipped or broken (even the enamel on the pots and pans) and were of no use.  That comes from having a rowdy husband, raising a rowdy boy and being relatively clumsy myself.  When the last piece "died", I cried a bit. I took it as a lesson for me that those kinds of things just didn't belong in my house.

     Over the years, we have had several sets of Corelle - they are sturdy and dependable.  They seem to be perfect for us.  I have been satisfied with them for years and never gave a thought to upgrading or to buying a good set of china or replacing the Mikasa.  I really didn't feel that I had a need for a set of "special" dishes.  We are far too casual for that kind of thing and I just knew that if I spent the money, I would just break them anyway even if we only  used them for Special Occasions.

     Since I have been living in the MidSouth, several of the older relatives have passed away.  Because of this, several times I have been offered beautiful sets of china, of crystal glassware, of "real" silver.  The silver, I quickly accepted because I knew I couldn't really damage that and I do have a child to pass it on to when he is ready but the china and crystal I repeatedly refused out of fear.  That is until my very wise Aunt said something to me that just clicked.  A while back she brought me a full set of crystal.  It is beautiful but I didn't know when I would ever use them and where I would store them.  I was on the verge of refusing when she said "First, they are very light, so they will be better for your hands.  Second- life is too short to let them just sit and look pretty."  She was speaking from her heart; from a place of knowing.  You see, she had lost her husband not long before we moved back here.  It was Mom's stroke and losing my uncle that spurred our decision to make the move.  She is doing so very well but she also has had a big change of perspective that only loss of your true love can give.  Recently, she brought me a set of china. She had picked them up at an estate sale with her daughter in mind and my cousin did not particularly like them so she brought them back (she lives up near Cincy) and my aunt thought of me.   It is a lovely gray and pink set with flowers- one of my favorite color combinations; right up there with black and pink and chocolate brown and pink. Though I loved them,  I hesitated again.  She just gave me that patented "Mom Look" and reminded me that they are ONLY dishes.  If they break-it's not the end of the world.    I gratefully took the china and brought it home.  I could just hear her in my head the whole way home as I tried to rationalize bringing a complete setting for 12 (when there are only 2 of us) as well as a full accompanyment of serving dishes and it finally clicked. I mulled it over for a few days and then removed all of the Corelle from my hutch and replaced it with that china.  What clicked, what made the decision easy was this:

      We only have a limited time on this earth.  There is no reason to surround ourselves with beautiful things and just store them away to only use them max once or twice a year.  If you have a set of china, a set of crystal- USE THEM.  Enjoy them!  If you need a "reason" or a "special occasion" to break them out; Celebrate your loved ones, they deserve your "good" stuff!  Celebrate you- YOU deserve the "good stuff"!  Celebrate the fact that you are alive, that the sky is blue, that you made it through another day, that you were able to put a meal on the table.  Any day can be a special occasion-you just need to decide that it will be and go with it.  As for me; Hubby still prefers the Corelle for his meals because they are bigger so they are in a handy cabinet for him, but I am using that china every evening and each time I do, it reminds me to give thanks for all of the blessings I have in my life. When I see them I am most grateful that I didn't have to wait until I was 50, 60, 70 or until I lost another person in my life to have that lesson brought home to me.  So I challenge you;  No matter if you are getting take out, making a gourmet meal or hot dogs with mac and cheese, get out those good dishes and use them.  Make your humble dinner special, just because you can.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Putting up some big numbers

Never let it be said that I am an underachiever.  I have been in a "study" of sorts since I was diagnosed.  Every other year or so, Seracare Life Sciences ask me to donate blood and they check my Rheumatoid Factor.  I am assuming it is to monitor how my treatment is affecting me.

Now- I have found several different sets of numbers that indicate what a "normal" Rheumatoid Factor should be.  To make it easy and sum it up, let's go with less than 100.  Four years ago, when I began with my current Rheumatologist, I came in at 1284!  Yay me!  Yeah right.  Back in March, Seracare contacted me for my blood donation.  A few weeks later they called me and asked if I would be willing to donate plasma for further studies.  In the, gracious, 7 years that we have been doing this, they have never asked for this so my antenna was pinging.  I asked my "rep" (I think that's what she's called-lol) if she knew what my results were.  Are you sitting down?  Because I am glad that I was.  My Rheumatoid Factor is currently at:


After 7 years, after most of the DMARDS and after a host of biologics, my numbers are through the roof.    So, next weekend, hubby and I are driving to Eastern Tennessee so I can go to one of their centers and will donate on Friday night and again on Sunday morning.  Seracare is taking care of the hotel for us, they are paying for my meals and mileage and a stipend for my time.  It won't get me any personal answers; but if they can use it to do further research and maybe find answers as a whole- it will be well worth it for the community at large.  

As for me?  My Rheumatologist knows about the test results.  She has okayed the donations and from here I guess we will press on and keep trying to treat this lovely disease.