Monday, December 31, 2012

End the Old Year as You Plan to Begin the New One

It's the end of another year.  It's gone by so very fast!  But on this last day of 2012 I want to end the year as I plan to spend my '13 by taking a moment to give thanks:

Thanks to my family and friends for being the best support system a woman could ever hope to have.

Thanks to my puppies.  They are the bright spot on even the worst days.

Thanks to my fellow RA bloggers.  You keep me going- and inspired- all year long.

Thanks to my higher power for all of the blessings, large and small, in my life.  I WILL do a better job of seeing them every day in 2013.

Thanks to you- the readers- for sticking with me on this journey.

I hope that each and every one of you has a safe and Happy New Year's Eve and a wonderful New Year.  I will be back tomorrow to talk about resolutions and change.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Mama

Today is not only Christmas Eve, but my mama's birthday. In several ways, we are symmetrical. She was born in 1947, had me in 1967 and I had Josh in 1987. She graduated high school in 1965, I graduated in 1985. She married my Dad in 1966, I married Jim in 1986. Do you see a pattern here?

Beyond our 20 year cycles (which I broke by not having more children- she had my sisters in 1970 and 1971) there are other similarities. We both have/had two siblings. I am the oldest where she is the youngest. We also look a lot alike. We both have brown hair and brown eyes, though I tend towards a dark blonde-light brown (most recently darkened further with the aid of a salon) while hers is more a deep brown. We both have very few grays- I think I have 5 now and she is beginning to show a just a few more. We both are/were in the area of 5' tall. We have the same nose which tends to run in our family. I have it, my sister Heather has it, Josh has it and both of my nieces have it. We have the same body type. We have the same skin tone. We are more olive complected and take sun very well where my sisters got my dad's fair skin and tend toward burning.

We both have our share of health issues. You all are well aware of mine since it's been written about here a million times. Mama, on the other hand has had a rougher go of it I think. When we were children and Mama was in her twenties she had three unsuccessful pregnancies, two ending in miscarriage and one resulting in a stillborn son. While these were with no doubt devastating for her, Mama handled them with grace and dignity. While I remember the events happening, I also remember her quiet strength. Twenty years ago, at the age I am now, Mama had a series of heart attacks, resulting in a double bypass. We were terrified that we would lose her but thankfully she received wonderful care at Bethesda NAS and recovered far more quickly than I could have ever hoped for. None of this made sense as she always seemed to be in good health. Despite her full recovery the underlying question was WHY this happened and there was just no answer- yet. She began her regimen of daily medications and accepted that there would be some limits in her life. Six years ago, at fifty-nine, Mom had a stroke. While her stroke was considered somewhat mild by the medical community, it seemed enormous to all of us. When she woke in the hospital much of her memory was...not gone but "hiding". She could remember what year it was and what time of year, but couldn't pinpoint the date. She could remember that she had three daughters but when asked it was "Julie, Lisa(the youngest) and...the one with the cute kids." She couldn't remember how to tie her shoes or do other basic tasks and most of all, she would lose her words when speaking. Anyone who has ever experienced what I call the RA (or Fibro) fog knows how frustrating it is when you are in the middle of a thought and cannot get the words out. With the help of Occupational Therapy, Mama made a good recovery. The only "lasting" effects are that when she is tired, she still loses her words which frustrates the daylights out of her and makes conversations very interesting when I am tired too and lose mine. :-) The other lasting effect is that she is, as a byproduct of the frustration, a little less even tempered than she was before. We did find out- finally- that all of this; the miscarriages, the heart attacks and the stroke were tied together by clotting issues that had gone undetected as well as an extremely underactive thyroid. The blessing is that since we know, it can be treated with Coumadin and other medications.

Mama and I also are very different in some ways. She and Dad married during the Vietnam era and shortly after my birth, he went overseas with the Air Force. While he was gone Mom went to work to help support me but when he came back, Mom became a full-time Stay at Home Mom to me and in short order my two sisters. Mom supported Dad by taking care of us and the home and helped to proofread his papers and such while he worked full time in the Whirlpool factory and finished his degree. She then stood with him as he took a commission in the Air Force and became an officer. She held us together as we traveled from base to base making a home for us at each new location and making moving and resetting up a home look FAR easier than it really is. Mom was there while Dad worked all sorts of crazy shifts, traveled on TDY and for a year on an unaccompanied remote. While in hindsight I can see that it was not easy for her, she never let us see that. We saw that she was the rock, the pillar, the heart that kept us going and was the epitome of "never let them see you sweat." She taught us to cook (some better than others) to do laundry, to take care of our houses (I am the worst at this) and to take care of ourselves and whomever else came along but she did it in a way that was just natural. I can't speak for my sibs, but it was never "you need to learn this" it was "let me show you how to do this" and then "okay, it's your turn to do it solo" or "now your laundry is your responsibility". She made our house a place that was not only warm and inviting for us, but welcoming to our friends throughout every year and base. It was not until I was in high school and college and weddings were looming in the near future that Mom went back to outside employment and even then she didn't skip a beat.

I, on the other hand, was a working Mom for Josh's whole childhood and through today. I have worked either 2-3 jobs while we were in New England or, like now, a salaried job that brings very long hours at times. I can cook *almost* as well as Mom but I never enjoyed baking as much as she does. I can do our laundry- but prefer the folding and putting away to the washing and drying so Jim and I split that task. I loathe housework- and it shows. As I sit here at her table and look around the almost spotless kitchen I can close my eyes and see my table at home that is much more of a catch-all than a place to eat. I still don't know how in the world she managed us three very different girls and kept the home as well as she did. I must have missed that particular gene because cleaning the house knowing that it's just going to get messy again makes me want to bang my head against a wall. . I think I also missed the "Stay at Home" gene because while Mom was content (?) with taking care of us, making our home a home and fulfilling all of the "duties" (wives clubs, committees, volunteer activities etc) that was expected of an Officer's Wife in the late 70's and early 80's, I truly thought when Josh was growing up that I would go mad if I didn't work. Suffice it to say, despite the wonderful example that she set- I didn't follow in her footsteps.

What's the point of all of this? Well, Mom is 65 today. She is the kind of mother that is open and loving and makes you want to spend time with her. She is a terrific Grandma to Josh, Amanda, Lauren, Matt and Jon. She is a good friend to all and the kind of wife I wish I could be. She and Dad are still crazy about one another, even when they are making each other crazy- after 50 years of being together. And today, on her birthday, I need to publicly give thanks. It will be 20 years ago (this coming summer) that we almost lost her. I am eternally grateful for the "extra" 7118 (give or take a few) days that we have been blessed to have had her with us because I don't know what I would have done without her guidance and her love.

Happy Birthday Mama! I love you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Negativity is Exhausting

It's been a rough couple of months, hasn't it?  From the barrage of negativity surrounding our election through the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past weekend it's been non-stop.  Emotionally, I am worn out.  I still can't fully articulate how I felt this weekend.  It was one thing on top of another.  First, "watching" through endless breaking news updates the events of the school shooting in Connecticut.  Then, to compound that we hear of the twenty-two children who, at the same time as the Sandy Hook massacre was going on, were stabbed by a knife-wielding mad man in central China.  Next, an Oklahoma boy was arrested after trying to bomb his school.  Finally, a northern Indiana man was arrested and 47 guns were seized at his home after threatening to set his cafeteria worker wife on fire at her school and "take out as many other people as he could before the police could stop him."  I just don't understand what is going on in our world.  How did we get here?

So, I am tired.  I am tired of the violence.  I am tired of hate-spewing people who hide behind their computers.  I am tired of people who never have a good thing to say.  I am beyond tired of the whole "FML" thing.  It makes me so very angry when I see it because it's usually used over something stupid like having to work on a weekend or heavy traffic or a cranky child.   I am tired of the "Happy Holidays!" vs "Merry Christmas" argument that is plastered all over the news and social media every single year.  I am tired of the way I see people acting in stores to one another and to the poor people who work retail this year and have to "cheerfully" put up with it.

Short of holing up in my room and not coming out until after the new year what is the solution?  Here are a few ideas:

Turn off the news- the media is all about reporting the bad news so turn them off.  Turn off your tv, your talk radio, your smartphone alerts and give yourself a news break.

Don't get drawn into the debates.  It's hard, I know but it can be done.  We all know it devolves all too quickly these days so avoiding it all together is the key.  Just don't even look at the comments.

If you don't want to take a social media break (and I don't-lol) hide or remove those people in your life who are the complainers.  

Spread kindness- I am sure that you are always nice, so be extra nice to everyone that you see is having a rough day.  That cashier who just got chewed out over something out of their control, that mom who has a child throwing a tantrum, that waiter/ess who is running around like mad will appreciate that kind word and smile more than you realize.

And with that, I leave you with my favorite "words of wisdom" for the holiday season:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Surrendering to the Pain.

     It's one of those "you play, you pay" kind of days.  I spent a solid 30 hours over the weekend baking "jar bread" and making bourbon balls and two kinds of fudge.  Yesterday I **tried** to put together a utility cart at work.  The cart wasn't having it.  It's made of a very thick resin and the screw holes on the top and bottom pieces were smaller than the screws and the matching holes on the braces.  I managed to get about 12 of the 30 screws in place just enough to hold it together (but not enough that I felt secure) before my hands were swollen enough that my rings had to come off. Thankfully, the husband of a member of my staff came to our rescue and brought in a cordless drill and finished it off for us.

      This morning both hands (I am moderately ambidextrous so when one side would get tired I would switch), both shoulders, both wrists and my feet are screaming.  The shoulders and wrists have that deep pain that you would swear was radiating out from the bone.  The hands and feet literally feel like they are burning if I use or move them.  I am sure you are thinking "then why are you using them to type?" but we all know that life can't stop just because our bodies are protesting.

      Now- I know how this cycle goes but the sheer amount of pain still caught me by surprise. I have been stable for quite some time.  A couple of hours of stiffness in the morning, moderate Fibro pain throughout the day, chronic fatigue and deep back pain by the end of the day.  This "normal" is nothing I can't live with.  I think that having settled into this pattern and accepting the pain levels caused me to let my guard down and so when Miss Harley woke me this morning and I couldn't even attempt to put her up on the bed I had a "WHOA! What is THIS?" moment.  Next came "Well, I know what I did to bring this on- totally my own fault." and finally " I hope I can get loose enough to get all of the things I have to do today!".  

     It wasn't until a few hours later that I realized what didn't happen in that little mental exchange this morning.  I didn't feel any pity for myself.  I didn't beat myself up for having over done it.  I didn't have any of the "I can't" moments.  I didn't even have a thought of limiting my day.  Instead my brain made the jump to "here's what I have to accomplish today- how can I do it without aggravating the pain?"  That realization gave me such a sense of peace that I could only smile.

     I have found a quote that  sums up what I am feeling this morning.

"The word "surrender" is often interpreted as giving up, as weakness, as admitting defeat. Although this is one way to use the word, we will use it in a different way. Surrendering means letting go of your resistance to the total openness of who you are. It means giving up the tension of the little vortex you believe yourself to be and realizing the deep power of the ocean you truly are. It means to open with no boundaries, emotional or physical, so you ease wide beyond any limiting sense of self you might have."

- David Deida

 I have surrendered to this pain.  I have surrendered to my new normal and to this current self induced flare.  It's not going to beat me- I will prevail.  I will go on with my life and though I may slow down- it will not cause me to come to a stop.  RA won't beat me.  Chronic fatigue won't beat me.  Fibro won't beat me.  My possibilities are limitless.