Monday, December 9, 2013

It's a long and winding road

     It's been quite some time since I have written here and a long road back.  I have been essentially avoiding my blog all summer because it's been a very rough six months both physically and personally and I have been having tough time with gratitude through it all.  Every time I open a page I stare at it and stare at it until I finally give up and go back to something else.  I have discovered during all of this that in order to not be a "whiner" and to not feel like I am constantly complaining I have held everything in.  That has impeded my gratitude journey in a very, very big way and that is not good for me.  In the interest of full disclosure, because I hate cryptic posts and status updates that seem to just beg for attention, it's time to just put it out there.  That being said, once I do I will leave the personal "stuff" alone for a while and probably circle around to the medical side before too long.

     So let's get the personal issues out of the way first.  Back in the end of April, my husband of 27 years decided that he wanted to separate.  Much of it was about things that he was going through following the death of his father back in February and was (is?) not handling well but I contributed too because we had fallen into a rut and had become too complacent.  I am not sure where we stand at the moment which has been a very large part of me not discussing it unless necessary. I hate being in limbo and not having any answers.  I can only say that we are cordial and that we are working on getting on an even ground before we make any big decisions.  It's been very difficult because in addition to dealing with the dynamics between us I have been learning to live on my own for the first time in my life.  That has been an eye-opening experience to say the least and some days are easier than others, but I am doing it and making my way through.

     Now for the medical.  As I mentioned back in August, we discovered that I have 5 discs that are in rough shape.  I have been griping about lower back pain and neck pain for years and one little MRI gave us the answer.  Conservative treatment is NSAIDS, pain meds, muscle relaxers.  All of which I am already on for the RA and Fibro so I am taking a wait and see attitude toward the back issues.  If we go for aggressive treatment it would mean a combined total of about 24 weeks out of work with no guarantee that I could go back afterward.  And that's a risk that I am just not willing to take right now.  When they told me about my back and the treatment options I went into a funk and basically asked "What more can possibly happen?"  I also told my family "That's it!  ONE more thing wrong with me and I am taking to my bed and not coming out!"  I meant it at the time.  I was just feeling so very sorry for myself that I was ready for a giant pity party.

     Well- we got confirmation of that "one more thing" last month.  My Rheumy sent me for my routine chest x-ray in June and at my September appointment referred me to a Pulmonary specialist.  He did breathing tests (I am fine there) and sent me for a CT scan.  It seems the RA has decided to invade my lungs as well.  Because it's not really having an effect on my breathing at the moment, we are taking a "wait and see" approach here too.  I will go back in March for another CT scan to see if there is any change in my lungs, then back for another breathing test and visit with the pulmonologist to discuss any treatment plan.  The only way that this has manifested so far is that each time I have gotten sick in the last few months, what starts as a cold rapidly turns into bronchitis and stays forever.  I have discovered on my own (by accident) that a big contributor to the length of the illness is the Orencia.  I figured it out over Thanksgiving when I had been sick for 4 weeks already and went to my folks for a two week vacation.  In packing the car, I forgot to pack my cooler and left my Orencia sitting in the fridge.  After the first week off of it I started to get better and by the second week I was back to normal.  The previous illness (after my Back to School rush) had been less intense and had lasted almost 2 months so there's no telling how long this one would have lasted had I not gone off the immunosuppressant.

     We also discovered in all of this that because of my previous liver problems with Methorexate- I cannot take Tylenol products any longer.  My first bout of illness late this summer I had been taking Mucinex and during that time I went to the Rheumy for my routine visit. My blood work came back with elevated liver enzymes and so she had me repeat the blood work after being off of it and they went back to normal.     I will discuss this with my Rheumatologist in February along with all of the other issues to try to get a handle on the comprehensive overview.

     I am glad to say that the newest incurable diagnosis did not send me into the tailspin I expected and did not cause me to take to my bed.  Though I reiterate- one more thing could be the one.  As anyone who lives with a chronic illness knows, it's difficult to know that you have a disease with no cure.  As the illnesses add up it can be so very overwhelming.  I think that had I been symptomatic  when we found out it might have put me in a different head space but I just took a deep breath (figuratively) and pressed on.

    As crazy as it sounds, each of these things sounds bad enough on their own and cumulatively they have made for a really bad few months.  That said, I have found that if I compartmentalize each issue and deal with one at a time I am far better at handling it all.  I have learned that I can do that without too much trouble and that if I focus on one problem at a time not only can I deal with them but, if it starts to overwhelm me I can switch focus and move to the next issue.  As crazy as it sounds, I have learned be grateful that I have so many things going on because I can't allow myself to obsess over any one thing.  It keeps me balanced in a way.

     I have also discovered an overwhelming amount of support out there.  As word of our separation has come out to some and my medical issue have been discussed with others, people have reached out that I never would have expected and have been there.  That is something for which I am really grateful!

     In order to get back on track, I am currently reading two pretty terrific books.  The first is a non-fiction book by one of my favorite romance authors, Debbie Macomber.  It is called One Simple Act  and is a faith based book about committing one small act of generosity in order to make the world a better place.  The second is Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik who tells about using simple Thank You Notes to find his way out of the lowest point in his life and to a life of gratitude.  Each is calling to me in a different way and I am thoroughly enjoying both of them.  I think the will help both in the short and long term.

    Before I go, I wanted to bring your attention to the resources section for RA on the right hand side.  I have added a couple that you might want to check out.  Finally, I want to thank you for baring with me during my silent months.  I appreciate it greatly.  Have a wonderful Monday!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Body Knows, Even When You Don't.

Everyone knows that this is a particularly stressful time of year for me.  After 10 years of working in higher education retail the fact that Back-To-School means running around, long, long (Did I say LONG?) hours, little sleep, horrid eating habits, hiring, training and scheduling a host of temp employees and trying to please the world is well known to me and all of mine.  It should big deal right? I am usually pretty good at keeping it in perspective and watching for the light at the end of the tunnel but this time was a little different.  

 I guess that when you add in the major personal issues that I have been dealing with for the last 6 months, moderately freaking out over the diagnosis of 5 discs in my back being in bad shape, and the usual pain and fatigue of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia and I was ripe for something to go wrong. And it did- big time.

Late last week I was working as usual when I started to get itchy.  I didn't think anything of it.  I knew I was at least slightly dehydrated because the first thing that goes is subbing back in lots of coffee for water and I could physically see in my skin that I was getting "dry" and I needed to fix that.  As the day went on I started feeling flushed and then cold off and on and somewhat queasy throughout the day.  Toward the end of the day my assistant said something to the effect of "Oh my goodness!  Are you feeling okay?"  I told her that I was feeling flushed and she said "That's probably because your face is all red and it looks like you are breaking out in hives!"  I finished up the online order that I was working on, went to the ladies room and was shocked.  It looked like I had had a major allergic reaction to something.  Instantly my mind raced to figure out what it could have been. The only thing that I had eaten all day was bread products so my mind went to "Oh no!  Not a gluten allergy!"  I went back to the store and my assistant offered to close for me and sent me home.  I stopped for some Children's Bendadryl, went home, took it, and crashed.

I must have scratched all night in my sleep because when I woke up, in addition to the hives I had long, red welts on my shoulders, neck, face, arms, legs and trunk.  I looked like I had been on the losing end of a battle with a cat.  That said, other than looking horrid and itching like crazy- I was no longer feeling nauseated or flushed so off to work I went.  I put in about 8 hours before I finally gave in and called my physician who told me to get to the Urgent Care immediately.

The doctor checked to make sure I wasn't having trouble breathing and then took a look at the mess I was in and told me that in addition to the blatant hives I was showing signs of Dermatographic Urticaria.  Essentially my body was, because of how badly and quickly the histamines kicked in was showing every area that I had scratched in a big way.  He then said that because I was not having problems breathing, his instinct was that this had been caused by stress rather than an allergic reaction.  He sent me off to the pharmacy with an RX for a double dose pack of Prednisone and told me to also get Zyrtec. We are now 7 days in to treatment and the hives are gone but the scratch marks, though fading, are still very evident.

The lesson here is simple.  Even when you think you are handling the challenges in your life- you may not have it as together as you assume.  When you try to push things aside and get caught up in the day to day without really dealing with things- your body knows and will let you know too! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Few Tips for Prepping for the Rough Days

I have a habit of going on binges where I will stock up on groceries and prep as much as I can for when I am super busy, my energy stores are lower than usual or when I am in a flare.  The latest binge was back on the 28th of July when I stocked up and prepped for the time period we are in now where I am working  7-day work weeks.  Add on the stuff with my back (the recent MRI showed 5 bad discs- two herniated with some leakage and 3 "just" bulging") and as of day before yesterday horrific hives and welts that are most likely stress induced.  I worked a "short" day today- only 7:45-1:30 and when I got home I played with the pups for a bit and then crawled into my bed and slept till 4:30.  When I got up and made my way downstairs I realized that I was hungry but hadn't planned for dinner tonight.  I considered going and getting takeout but I have been doing that FAR too often in the last few months.  I went through the fridge, and cleaned it out in the process, realizing that nothing in there sounded particularly fabulous.  The more I thought about it and mentally flipped through my options I remembered that I have been hankering for a green bean casserole for quite some time now.  I went back to the kitchen to see what I could make to go with one and decided that it was a good day to make a one pan meal.  Thanks to my prep, cooking in my oven right now is a chicken, rice, green bean and mushroom casserole, about 10 minutes before the end I can just top with fried onions.

While it's cooking, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks and a couple of recipes that I use when I do my marathon shopping/preparation sessions.  They allow me to make really tasty semi-homemade dinners that are fast, easy and require minimum effort on the night's I make them.

When shopping, I watch for sales and coupons and stock up on the following:

Birdseye Steamfresh Pure and Simple line of frozen veggies.
Birdseye Steamfresh Pure and Simple Blends line of frozen veggies
Birdseye Recipe Ready line of frozen veggies
Gorton's 20 under 200 (calorie) fish line
Reames Egg Noodles
Mrs. T's Pierogies

5-lb packages of 80/20, 90/10 or 93/7 ground beef (depending on the sale price)
3-5lb packages of ground chicken
3-5lb packages of Sweet Italian Sausage
Yellow Onions

99% fat free versions Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Broccoli soups
Long Grain Rice
Pasta: Spaghetti, Fafalle, Orecceti, Orzo
Steel Cut Oats
Corn tortillas
Shredded cheeses

Tips and Tricks:

  • Buy your ground meats in bulk.  Chop yellow onion and mix with ground meat then cook off.  Cool and divide into recipe size portions. Write the date on freezer bags -so you know when you cooked it off and can rotate.  Place portions in freezer bags, remove air and close tightly, lay bag flat and pat to move meat to evenly cover the surface of the bag.  Place bags on top of one another and lay flat in the freezer.  Once frozen you can move them around the freezer as needed without losing shape.The pre-cooked meats can be used for a myriad of things such as:  

    • Soups
    • Casseroles
    • Nachos (just add taco seasoning when re-heating)
    • Sloppy Joes 
    • Pasta dishes
    • Pita sandwiches

  • Buy Pint Size Ball Canning Jars and wash before using.  Cook up large batches of soup (see recipes below) and ladle hot soup into jars.  Immediately put on lids and screw rings on tightly.  Allow soup to cool slightly to handle the jars safely and then place in freezer.  The heat from the soup will seal the jars for you.  When you want to eat the soup either thaw in the fridge overnight or remove ring and lid and microwave in 30 second increments until you can pour into a pan to cook.  This also work for homemade spaghetti sauce.  

  •  When I want to take frozen soup for lunch, I take it out of the freezer when I am packing my lunch bag.  I put it on paper towels when I get to work and leave it at room temp until lunch time.  I pour into a bowl and heat in the microwave until hot.  

  • I use a modified overnight method for my steel cut oats:  bring four cups of water and your sweetener of choice (I prefer brown sugar or agave nectar) to a boil.  Add 1c Steel Cut Oats and Craisins to taste.  Stir well and remove from heat.  Leave on the stove overnight.  In the morning, toast off chopped walnuts or almonds in stove.  Divide any oatmeal that you aren't eating immediately into serving size plastic containers. Reheat today's portion of oatmeal at medium heat.  Top the portions for later with nuts and put in the fridge. When today's oatmeal is hot, stir in nuts and enjoy! When re-heating the refrigerated portions later- heat in microwave for one minute, stir to incorporate nuts, and heat another minute.  

  • My breakfast for next week is Egg Muffins.  My muffin tins are medium sized so I made 12 and will have two each day.  The recipe I used is from Taste of Home.  My only edits are that I used crumbled bacon instead of sausage, added quite a bit of julienned spinach and mushrooms and used 1c of low fat shredded sharp cheddar.  The original recipe is here:  When they were done, I let them cool and bagged two together in ziploc freezer bags then put those in a gallon sized freezer bag.  I will grab a bag in the morning, take them to work (they will be thawed by the time I get there) and microwave 1 min 30sec.  

Soup Recipes:

My Tortilla Soup: 

1c Chopped Carrots,
1c Chopped Celery, 
1c Chopped Onion
2tbsp oil
5 chicken breasts
8-10 c water
1 four pack of Knorr Homestyle Stock tubs (I use low sodium)
1LG can of corn
5 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
2-3 avocados
corn tortillas
Queso Fresco
Shredded Cheddar (optional)

Cook the celery, carrots and onions in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken breasts, salt, pepper and water (I started with half the water and added the rest later) and cook until the breasts are completely cooked and tender. Remove the breasts to cool.
Add in the Knorr Stock and "melt" then add the remaining water and corn. Chop the tomatoes and cilantro. Shred the chicken by pulling apart with two forks. Add back into soup and bring back to simmer. Add the tomatoes and cilantro and bring just to a low boil.   ***This is the point where I freeze the soup****

To serve: 

Cut the tortillas into thin strips and fry until crisp. Cube the avocado. Crumble the queso fresco.

In the bottom of the bowl, put as little or as much queso fresco/shredded cheddar and cubed avocado as you like. Ladle the heated soup over top and wait 2-3 minutes for avocado to heat and cheese to become melty. Top with tortillas and enjoy!

*** I get tortilla soup at a local restaurant a LOT and always have to bring half home. If you refrigerate it overnight, the tortillas become like noodles. Still yummy!

Kale Soup: 

1 1/2 cups onions
1/2 lb bacon 
1 lb sweet italian sausage 
8 c water
3 -4 minced garlic cloves
1 four-pack of Knorr Homestyle stock base
1 large bunch of Kale chopped into bite size pieces
3 -4 cups cauliflower (cut up in small pieces) ***
1 1/2 cups half and half


Fry bacon in a medium/large size skillet; drain fat, put on plate and let cool.
In the same skillet cook the sausage (or reheat your pre-cooked bags) and set aside.

In a large soup/stew pot use a little of the bacon grease to cook onions until tender and clear. Add in garlic and cook for a minute. Add water and bring to a boil then add stock base (it needs to be hot to melt stock base)

Tear bacon into small pieces and add to pot along with sausage and cauliflower***
Cook for 15 minutes until cauliflower is tender. Add kale and cook until wilted
Add half and half and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

***Notes: This is the low carb version. In regular Kale Soup you would use diced potatoes in place of the cauliflower. When freezing this I do not add the half and half until I heat it up and it's almost ready and if I am taking it to work, I don't bother with the half and half- it's equally good without it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Doing a Little Something Fun for Myself

With everything that has been going on in my life; expanding health issues, marital issues, work craziness, I have been in a bit of a funk.  I am still upright and dealing with everything.  Not always in the best way, but I am making it through and for that I can be grateful, but it's been a long, slow slide down the slope and I didn't even see that it was happening until I found myself apologizing a few times about being bitchy.  I heard myself and realized that it was time to find a way to snap out of it. I read this quote a month or so ago and I decided that it was time to step out of my comfort zone and do something fun just for me.

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

M. Scott Peck

  If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE Halloween.  It's my favorite holiday and I truly have more fun with Halloween than I do with Christmas.  I love the costumes, I love the crisp Fall air, I love the ghost stories and the pumpkins and cider.  I also love Haunted Houses; not because I get scared but because I love watching other people go through them and watching THEM get scared and enjoying every minute of being scared.  Last season when my best friend flew in for her annual visit, she, my husband and I decided to do a tour of haunted houses.  The intention was to hit the trifecta of haunted houses that are located in reportedly truly haunted locations in my area~ The Culbertson Mansion, the Baxter Avenue Morgue and Waverly Hills Sanatorium.     We have done Waverly several times including the annual fundraising haunted house, the two hour guided tour and the half-night ghost hunting tour.  We had never been to Culbertson or Baxter Ave so we were really looking forward to them.  My friend is one of those people that I love to watch in a haunted house because though she will clutch you the whole way through, she has a ball being scared.  So off we went and we had a good time but the best of the best was the Baxter Avenue Morgue.  We went on a quiet Thursday night so we were visiting with the security outside and mentioned where my friend was from and what our mission was for this tour.  He then mentioned it to someone inside and they truly went out of their way to "target" her and give her some thrills.  After the tour, a couple of cast members spent time with us outside telling us of their experiences both with the haunted house and with the paranormal side of the building.

We appreciated their time and the way that they went out of their way so much that when I began to think about what I wanted to do to "break out", and when I would be able to commit to something, one of the things I decided to do was to audition for this season's Morgue cast.  I went down to the open casting a couple of weekends ago and talked to the casting directors and I was lucky enough to be cast! Last weekend I went to the call-backs where we met the other volunteers and learned our way around and through the location as well as how things will work. This season (beginning the weekend of September 6th and running through the first weekend in November) I will be down there on weekends, hopefully offering thrills and chills to the masses.  I am pretty darned excited.  The seasoned veterans of the were very welcoming and made it a point to drive home that it's very much a family atmosphere among the cast and crew and you could see it in the way they interacted.  That's a good thing because I have found that I have become very introverted in the last few years and this will drive me out of the house and "force" me to make new friends.  This is an important step because I have been very content spending my free time at home just hanging out with my puppies and not really putting myself out there~ and we all know that too much of that can lead to a self-imposed isolation.  It's also getting my creative juices flowing as I develop a background sketch for my character. This will help me on my next writing venture.  

So this year, if you are in the Louisville area, stop down at The Baxter Avenue Morgue.  Great deals for tickets can be found at Circle K gas stations as well as some Penn Station sub locations. You just might run into this chick during your visit!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Choose to be Happy

"When you’re Happy for No Reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don’t need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness.”  
Marci Shimoff

Yesterday was a long day.  I was scheduled to go into work at 11 but due to scheduled interviews and other pressing issues, I had to go in at 8 am instead. That made for another 11 hour day.  I had my pedometer on and clocked in at 9344 steps. Not the recommended 10,000 but close and I did it with an ache spreading across my back like a squeezing vice.  The acupuncture is helping a little, but we are at about 3 days of relief before it amps back up.  By 3 pm, I caught myself being very, very cranky.  Fortunately only a couple of people had to deal with me because I was REALLY snarky for a bit.  I came home, walked the pups, made myself a BLT (hold the L) on 12 grain and baked some fries then sat with my heating pad until time for bed.  

Today is the first day of training for my temporary staff for the semester.  What that means is that I conducting the "classroom" session with them for about 4 hours.  With my lower back still hurting a lot, being on my feet  for 4.5 hours will be a challenge.  I get to repeat this 4 times this week.  Two days of classroom/ sales floor work and two days of video training for the 7-8 people we have already hired, topped with two more interviews and potential training for those folks too.  Oh- and there's my regular work too.  We are at a stage where school starts in 3 weeks.  That means that there's no time to take it easy, no time to indulge the pain, no rest for the wicked.  I can feel my irritation rising just thinking about my schedule between now and Labor Day.  

It would be so easy to give in to the pain and fatigue and allow myself to become both snappish and oversensitive.  If I did that I would end up trying to reign myself in all day in front of the staff and customers and then coming home and stewing until it had an effect on my sleep.  I have been there, done that more than I care to admit.  I could see the trend beginning yesterday. Toward the end of the day it was almost as if I was standing outside myself and couldn't stop the words even though I wanted to give myself a shake.   This time, because I was able to truly see how grouchy I was becoming, I choose to nip it in the bud.  

This time I will try to project happiness.  As Marci Shimoff said in the quote above I don't need to manipulate the world around me to try and make myself happy- I merely need to live from a place of happiness to be happy.  Yes, the pain ebbs and flows like the surf in a storm.  Yes, I have personal issues that need to be resolved so that I can move in one direction or another.  Yes, I am both physically and mentally exhausted.  The thing is- none of those things are going to change any time soon.  I can let them drag me down or I can choose to set them aside for the time being and just allow myself to be happy in the moment.  To that end, here is the 3-part plan:  

1-  Every time I feel my stress level rising I will literally stop, take a moment in my office and breathe through it until I am back to level.  

2-  I will make sure that I stretch out every morning to get my muscles and joints ready for the long day ahead.  I have downloaded a yoga app that looks to be a good way to get the kinks out in the morning.  I will also stretch again on my breaks using the simple stretches that my Chiropractor gave me to keep the tightness at bay as much as possible.  

3- I will make time to practice gratitude in the moment.  Even the most difficult situation has a silver lining somewhere.  When I find myself  in the midst of one, if I can't find that thing to be grateful about right then; I can jot myself a note for when we are slow and just let it go.  I can then take that time to review the situation and identify that one little nugget that I can be thankful for rather than let the problem sit in my brain and fester all day.  

That's it, simple and to the point.  It's all about changing my attitude when I recognize that I am becoming overwhelmed by the negative and  releasing it for the positive.  

On a side note- I am honored to have this blog chosen as one of the Top 20 Rheumatoid Arthritis blogs of 2015 by  I cannot tell you what it means to me!  Thanks to the folks of Healthline because that is something that I can think about when the going gets rough! 

Best Rheumatoid Arthritis Health Blogs

Monday, July 29, 2013

An Update and a Lesson Learned

It has been several months since I posted and for that I apologize.  My life has been in flux in a very large way.  Maybe not flux- but more like a perpetual state of limbo.  I have had some difficult personal things going on and I've allowed myself to be blocked in all of my writing projects in the process.  While I still am not feeling at liberty to go into details, there are some updates and a lessons that I can share.

First, let's talk about the Chiropractor.  When last I wrote, I was ready to try acupuncture for the pain.  Dr. Rich started with X-rays and found that my C5-7 and L4-5 vertebrae have enough osteoarthritis in them that I look like my  back  in those areas is that of a 65 year old.  Not great news but it explains the limited motion is my neck and the constant pain in my lower back.  We began with 8 appointments of massage, electronic muscle stimulation and adjustments.  I also received a new TENS machine.  You may recall from the last time I did physical therapy that I had one of these- but the unit itself failed and I returned it.  This one is pretty fantastic.  It allows me to apply the electronic stimulation any time which is wonderful!  While the adjustments were helpful in getting some of my range of motion back into my neck, the headaches from the tension in my neck begin in my shoulder and go up to my head.  The constant pain ranges from a dull throb to feeling as if there's an ice pick going in the back of my head and coming out of my eye.   The massage therapist tells me on a regular basis that working on me is like working on a cement block.  I know that much of this is due to stress and that I will need to find a way to alleviate that if I am going to try to have long term relief.

Last week we finally started the acupuncture phase.  Wednesday he concentrated on my neck.  20 little needles were inserted everywhere from my neck, into my head and hands, elbow and calf and then I laid on the table for about 15 minutes in the quiet.  I actually dozed off.  When the needles came out, my headache had gone from an ice pick feeling down to a dull throb. The relief just took me back.  Friday, the headache was still at an even place so we worked on my back.  This time there were 33 needles and a totally different experience.  The areas of my lower back felt as if they were tightening up while I lay there and when the needles came out it was as if there was a deep ache left behind.  The doctor said that was normal, that it was drawing out what it was supposed to and that it should subside shortly.  After the first treatment I had more energy but after the second I went home and napped because I just felt drained.

The following morning the pain was noticeably better and the relief in both areas lasted until Sunday evening when my stress began to rise.  This week I have two more sessions and though we are almost back where we started last week, I am cautiously optimistic.  I think that if I can work on stress management in conjunction with the acupuncture it will make a BIG difference.

Therein lies the lesson that I have learned.  I knew that stress can play a large role in our health but I was under the misconception that I had it handled.  Obviously I do not and I need to work on this.  It effects not only my sleep (which I knew) but also my body in ways I never imagined and has a large part to play with my Fibromyalgia.  So that's where I am as of this morning.  Some answers, some work to do and a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Adding a new layer to treatment.

I am very fortunate that I have terrific insurance through my job.  For several years now, I have been interested in trying acupuncture- and my insurance will cover it- but the glitch was that living in Kentuckiana, there were no practitioners in my area- until now.  There is a local Chiropractor who does acupuncture who is now on my plan.

Let me first say that Chiropractics kind of scares me.  Not the actual "adjustment" thing- but that everyone I know who goes- goes ALL of the time! It's like they are...addicted?  That said, the pain in my neck and my back was great enough that it outweighed the fear and I bit the bullet and made an appointment.

I was very impressed that when I told him I was there for acupuncture for pain management, the doctor took the time to not only do an exam but also to do X-rays.  He suggested a book for me to read (The Bowersox Protocol) for my Fibromyalgia and he made me a second appointment where he would give me a treatment plan.  Now- I got the book. It's a supplement based treatment that may help but with all the medications I am on- that's a lot more "stuff" to take.

I went back for my treatment plan two days later and while I KNEW that I had Osteoarthritis in my lower back- I wasn't quite expecting what I got.  The doctor showed me my x-rays and and I am a hot mess.  My neck x-rays are very clear and you can see the damage without any explanation.  My upper cervical vertebrae are okay.  A little compressed but that's to be expected with my past and age.  My lower cervical vertebrae are that of a 60+ year old.  When it came to the lumbar vertebrae the situation was the same and he also showed me that my right hip is slightly lower than my left and has a lot of thinning due to the RA and that also contributes to the OA in my lumbar region.  It's no wonder that the pain in those areas are constant.  His concern though was that because of the arthritis, the lack of range of motion and the pain levels that there are also pinched nerves and/or bulging disks.

So- here's the treatment plan:  A total of 20 visits.  The first 9 will be 3x a week for 3 weeks (skipping next week's vacation-obviously) to try to adjust me, following up with a massage after.  I love massage so that was a welcome surprise.  After that, he will re-evaluate to see if he needs to send me for an MRI to look for bulging disks.  He will also then add in physical therapy and acupuncture.  They also sent me home with a TENS unit.  I love the tens!

Before I left he did an adjustment.  When he cracked my neck- I almost cried.  I haven't been able to crack my neck in over a year and it felt wonderful!  My lower back was less successful but since I didn't expect any relief- it was okay.  The only problem was that though that adjustment felt great at first- my muscles just throbbed all night long.  That was not fun but I talked to a friend who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and she said that it was to be expected as we loosen things up.

So there we are.  This week I will be there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  We shall see how it goes.  If it helps- I will rejoice, for sure.  Do any of you see a Chiropractor or an Acupuncturist?  I would be interested in your feedback.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

There's An App For That... @soulpancake

A quick post this morning to share one of my favorite Sites/Apps.  Soul Pancake is the brain-child of Rainn Wilson and friends.  If you watched The Office- you will recognize him as Dwight.  If you are a fan of Oprah and the OWN network- Rainn has recently been featured on Super Soul Sunday.

The idea behind the website and the app (there is also a book- I am ordering it today!) is to create a dialog between people through conversations, videos and activities that really make you think.  To quote from their "About" section of their website:
About SoulPancake
SoulPancake is media and production company, founded by actor Rainn Wilson, that creates uplifting, thought-provoking content. Our mission is to encourage people to chew on life’s big questions and figure out what it means to be human. We like people who know how to hustle (and if you know how to do the hustle, that’s even better). We create content about life, death, love, purpose, art, and the soul. Among our accomplishments: creating Daytime Emmy-award winning programming for television; managing a premium YouTube channel that provides daily video content across multiple genres; publishing a New York Times bestselling book; and building and maintaining a vast digital audience

I love this website- but more- I love the app.  The app, which I have pinned to the front page of both my iPad and iPhone centers on the conversations and I never fail to find a question (or a response to a question) that makes me stop and think.

Don't just take my word for it.  I would also recommend that you pop over to the Super Soul Sunday site and see what they have to say about Soul Pancake.

If you check it out- let me know what you think!  If you have a favorite website or app that enhances your life in a positive way- share that too.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

For the love of a dog (or two).

“No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish - consciously or unconsciously - that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.” ― Dean Koontz

Every single night since the difficulties I am currently dealing with started, I have had two loving shadows.  As you probably know- I am the "Mommy" to two very sweet dogs.  Harley and Auggie came into my life via the Animal Care Society, Louisville's first no-kill shelter.  Harley came to us first in March of 2008.  She's a Yorkie/Schnauzer mix who is currently about 9 years old.  Auggie came to us a little later- in December of 2009. He is about 5 years old.  I cannot tell you how much joy they have brought to my life.

You cannot convince me that our dogs cannot sense when things aren't right.  For the past two months, every evening Auggie has ensconced himself in my lap.  He was always the "love-muffin" of the two but now even more so.  When I am upset or feeling down or in a flare, he will jump up on my lap and stretch himself up, front paws on my shoulder and rub his face on mine lay his head on my shoulder.  He won't move until I rub and pet him and tell him that "it's okay".  He will then curl up and not move until bed time if I let him.  Even Harley- our stand-offish little girl- has been a lap puppy of late.  She will wander over, ease up (she has arthritis in her back) and put her paws on the arm of the chair to let me know that she want's up.  Because of my RA/Fibro and her arthritis I have to stand up, pick her up and then sit down with her on one leg so she can stay stretched out.  This means displacing Auggie to get her up and settled.  He will stand at the bottom of the chair and watch until she is settled and then jump back up and take the other leg.  There's nothing like twenty five pounds of puppy on each leg expecting you to pet them.  As I sit there, stroking their fur from nose to tail, I can't help but let go of all of my worries and allow the repetitive motion, the wiry feel of Harley's coat and the silky feel of Auggie soothe me.  Harley will stay just long enough to feel me relax and then, as if her job is done, she will hop down and either lay at my feet, beside my chair or in her bed.  Auggie will stay until I have to get up again and then pop up to the arm of the couch, both of them keeping an eye on me.

When it's time for bed, whether I "announce" it or just go around shutting of the lights, tv and PC they both follow me through the house and up to the bedroom.  They always were welcome on the bed and now is not any different.  But where they used to sleep either stretched down our legs, both at the foot of the bed or Auggie at the foot and Harley underneath the bed, now they both want up and Auggie will start where I can pet him and inch his way up until he's almost at my head and Harley will ease up my thigh using my hip as a pillow.  It's as if they are saying "we are here and we love you."

If you are not a dog (or pet) person, I don't know how to explain the unconditional love that adopting a dog will bring to your life.  When I walk into the house after a day at work they run to the door and bark with joy to see me.  Auggie will stretch up to my knee for a "hug" and I cannot move until I give him one.  Harley will run and bring me a toy to say "I am so glad to see you, I brought you a present!"  When I say the word "walk" they bark with glee and run to the door to wait for their leashes.  When I say "ride" they nearly jump for joy in anticipation.  When I say "treat"- they run to "their" shelving unit and wiggle their bums until they receive their treat.  You cannot help but smile at each and every one of the ways that they show their different personalities.

Every night, when I am sending up prayers, I give thanks that I was lucky enough to find these two fur-babies and bring them into my home and life.  They keep me going when I want to give up.  They give me love no matter how cranky I am.  They make me feel needed when I feel useless.  They are the biggest constant in my life and i will forever be grateful for them.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's the little things

     Yesterday I made my lunch on autopilot as usual and headed off to work.  I don't take a real "lunch break".  Instead I usually take my lunch either into my office and reply to emails and catch up on paperwork or I go into the stock room and do some receiving while I eat.

     Yesterday was a stock room day.  So I went in, put my music on and opened my little Rubbermaid container and just smiled.  I had cut up a Granny Smith apple and a couple of ounces of cheddar and grabbed a sleeve of saltines.  Looking down at my apple slices and cheese I suddenly got the image of the first time I had that combination.

     I was 13 years old.  We had flown back to the states from the Phillippines to California and then to Chicago.  We were at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.  We stopped for lunch and I must have ordered a fruit plate because I remember them bringing out a plate with a thin slices of cheddar, grapes and slices of green apple.  That was the first time I had ever even considered placing a slice of cheese on top of the apple. I remember the tart but sweet taste of the apple along with the sharp taste of the cheddar.  I don't remember why- but for some reason the whole experience made me feel like a grown up.  Silly, huh?

     As I looked down at my lunch, as I placed the slice of cheese on the slice of apple, as I bit into that sweet/salty/tart/sharp combination; I closed my eyes and for a moment I was transported back, sitting in the airport with my family after long hours of  flying across the world, feeling very adult-like and I just smiled.  My heart felt a little lighter.  My day was a little less stressful.  All seemed right in the world.

     Sometimes, it's the little things that can turn your day from ordinary to a little extraordinary if only for a moment.  And that moment can make all the difference.  So take those little things, take that feeling and cherish it because it's fleeting but it can be so important.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

When you feel powerless to help.

It has been a very, very difficult month or so around here.  One of those roller coasters that never seems to end.  It took some time but at this point I have made peace with the situation, knowing I have done everything I can.

It's hard to watch someone you care about spiral out of control.  Even harder still, at least for me, is knowing that there's nothing that you can do to help or to stop it.  It leaves you feeling angry, sad, frustrated and more.  Then there are those moments that they seem much like their old selves.  It gives you a glimmer of hope, which is quickly dashed when they jump back into the pit that they have dug.  Those instances show you just how powerless you are in all of the madness.  So what CAN you do in those times?

1.  Be loving but firm.  Love doesn't come with an on/off switch but just because you love someone does not mean that you have to tolerate their bad behavior.  It's good to let them know that while you love them, you won't be a party to their self destruction.

2.  Support without enabling them.  This can be harder than number 1.  You want to be there for them.  You want to help them through their tough time.  The key is to find a balance.  Something like "I am here when you need me, but I can not allow you to ____________ in my home."

3.  Say a prayer- or a hundred.  Whether you call to God, Buddha, Allah, Mother Earth, Yahweh or another deity, keep this person in your prayers.  If you are an Atheist or Agnostic, spend time just thinking of this person and sending them positive thoughts.  Whether you pray, meditate or just send your thoughts into the universe, keeping it positive will allow you to lessen the pain that you are feeling.  I often use the first part of the Serenity Prayer to get me through the day.  It goes like this:

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

4.  Step away from the drama.  Who needs it?  When a person is in a downward spiral, the feed on the drama.  You don't need the angst and you don't need to feed into their spiral.  It's important for your own positivity to step back and distance yourself from all the negativity that they are creating. There's a wonderful article here on Tiny Buddha that talks about how to minimize the drama in your life.  

5.  Forgive them.  By no stretch of the imagination do I mean that you have to accept or condone anything that they are doing.  You certainly don't have to TELL them that you have forgiven them. This is for you, not for them.  By opening your heart to forgiveness, you allow yourself to make peace with this person.  Not their current actions, but the person that you know and love.  That peace will allow you to more easily deal with the myriad of "stuff" they are throwing around.  Forgiveness will also give you a clarity to see through all of the "bull" and to know when/if it is time to step back and when/if it's time to step away.

None of these steps are easy and they may not all be for everyone.  They are just what has helped me over the last weeks and I hope they can help you when faced with a situation in which you feel powerless.

I leave you with this:

“It does not take a great supernatural heroine or magical hero to save the world.
We all save it every day, and we all destroy it -- in our own small ways -- by every choice we make and every tiniest action resulting from that choice.
The next time you feel useless and impotent, remember what you are in fact doing in this very moment. And then observe your tiny, seemingly meaningless acts and choices coalesce and cascade together into a powerful positive whole.
The world -- if it could -- will thank you for it.
And if it does not... well, a true heroine or hero does not require it.”
                                                                                     ― Vera Nazarian

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Suffering" is a State of Mind

I read a lot of websites, blogs, Facebook pages/groups, Google+ posts, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn groups devoted to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Illnesses in general.  I do this so I can get hints and tips from others living with these illnesses.  What strikes me most and what ties these different platforms together is the sheer number of people who "suffer" with these illnesses.

I understand the pain they are experiencing.  I understand the frustration with the limitations on their lives. I understand how it feels when the people in your life just don't get it.  None of this is easy to live with.  That said, what I don't understand is constant misery.  The sheer number of people who essentially hate life because they are dealing with any or all of the issues of chronic pain, limitations and/or lack of support is astonishing.

When I go to these pages, I am looking for positive people, good hints/tips and ideas for being more productive in general.  I have friends who live with illnesses who are the happiest and most positive people I have ever met.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between.  It's often hard to find them due to the overwhelming number of folks living from a negative place.  I cannot imagine being there all of the time.  You only have to look back at this blog to see where I have had difficult times and struggled with these illnesses but I generally snap out of it fairly quickly.  Frankly- it's exhausting to be in that head space.  Who needs to add that to illnesses that make you chronically fatigued already?  Now- I realize that there are folks who are clinically depressed and I am not discounting that.  In those cases, a professional is the only way to treat the depression.  I am talking about the people who receive their diagnosis and it's as if they become their illness. Their diagnosis is the only thing they talk about, they complain constantly, they allow it to take over their lives.

I want to shout at them "It doesn't have to be that way! You are not your illness! Your illness is not you!"  Everyone has blessings in their lives- they only have to open your eyes and see look for them.  You have to look beyond the diagnosis, look beyond the pain, look beyond the frustration and see the bright spots in your life.  Then take those bright spots and giving thanks for them and look for more. An example in my own life is this:  I work in retail.  Part of that is stocking shelves, shipping and receiving, and a lot of 50+ lb lifting.  There are days when I can do it with no problem.  There are days that I struggle with it but find a way to lessen the load. There are other days (like today) when I am in a fibro or RA flare, or even when one is coming on when there is no way in the world that I can do any lifting.  I could focus on these days where I am not able to work to my full capacity.  I could make this so "huge" that I let if affect my good days.  I could let it make me feel useless- but that is just not true!

 I am very capable.  On my really good days I can run circles around the 18-26 year old students who work for me.  On my average days, I can work side by side with them and hold my own.  I have told every member of my staff that I have both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibro and what it means for me.  Every single one of them understands what that means for me and what it means for them when I am having a bad day.  The bright spot is- they never, ever make me feel like I am imposing on them by asking them to do the heavy work.  Another bright spot is that when I have to ask them to do the heavy stuff- I can take over the light stuff and we can keep moving forward.  When I find myself mentally beating myself up about not being able to do something, I remember that I have help and that though I am not doing everything- I am more than capable of doing *something* to take the load off of those who are taking the load off of me.

I am not my RA or Fibro.  I am so much more.  Despite these challenges, I have a good life.  I have a wonderful family, I have a good job, I have pretty terrific insurance, I have good doctors looking after me.  I learn something every day.  I don't suffer from my illnesses- I live with them and don't let the things I can't do define me.  If you are in the mind space where you are suffering from something; be it illness, mourning a loss, a broken heart, you can look beyond those things and find the good.  You can focus on the things you CAN do rather than what you CAN'T.  If you take nothing else from this post, take this: you can change your mindset and put your challenges where they belong- as a part of you, not as all that you are.

I leave you with a quote:

"People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success." 
Norman Vincent Peale 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What is WRONG with people?

My heart is very heavy over the Boston Marathon bombings.  When the first of dozens of alerts came in on my phone my heart was in my throat.  I knew a couple of people who were running and about a dozen who go in every year to enjoy the party that is the spectator's side of Marathon Monday.  Fortunately, by 6:30 pm I heard from the last of them that they were okay and felt so blessed that they were all well.  Seeing the carnage tore at something inside me but at the same time the everyday people who were running toward the explosions to help was such a brightness in such a horrific time.

Of course, the coverage has been crazy.  I don't know where you are, but here in Louisville, with Thunder over Louisville this weekend and the Derby coming up in two weeks there has been a lot of conversation as to what measures should be taken to ensure that this doesn't happen here.  In addition, every newspaper, television station and internet news venue has been updating every few hours any information coming out of Boston.  Feeling very invested, I have been reading a LOT of stories.  The problem with that is that I also read the comments.  I usually find it very interesting to see what my fellow man has to say about big stories.  This time, quite honestly, many-many-many of the comments have turned my stomach.  If I were to go on about all of my issues with the things that come out of people's mouths (fingertips?) it would take us a week so instead I will just put here an open letter to all of them at once:

Dear Person Commenting on the Boston Marathon Bombing:

I have read your comments on the news stories and I believe that many of you are incredibly confused.  This event left three people (so far) dead, over a dozen missing limbs and almost 200 injured right here on our own soil.  Additionally, thousands of men, women and children will be emotionally scarred for a very long time.  During this we have also seen the best of people, coming together to help their fellow man. So please let me break this down for you.

This is not about your political agenda.
This is not about your gun rights.
This is not about your religious views.
This is not about your bigotry.
This is not about YOU!

. I don't care what you think about the President.  I don't care what you think about being able to carry a gun.  I don't care what you think about your God's vengeance.  I don't care what you think about this/that or another race.  Your negativity and hatred are the root of all of this.  If you and people like you weren't so quick to open your mouth and spew your venom maybe, just maybe, people would actually get along better and there would be less of an inclination to cause such mass carnage and chaos.  Yes, there is evil in this world but your negativity only allows it to grow.

This event is about the victims and the heroes who risked their lives to help.  So how about this?  How about, instead of sitting at your keyboard bashing everyone and everything you go out and make a positive difference in someone's life?  Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Volunteer for a fundraiser for the victims.  Thank a First Responder.  If you want a different world- it's up to you, to me, to all of us to stop complaining and do something about it.

I leave you with a quote from Gandhi:  "Be the change you wish to see in this world."



Monday, April 8, 2013

Sometimes we all need a reminder to enjoy the ride

Every once in a while, something happens that knocks the breath out of you.  I don't mean something as...drastic.. as a death but just something that makes you stop and re-evaluate your life.  Though you may be hurt or just surprised at the way things are going, this does not have to be a bad thing.

A shock to the system can give you the nudge you need to gain perspective.  If you give yourself time, you can sit back and look through the pain and see clearly those little things that you may have not seen or even known were there while you were going about your life.  Once you identify them, you can begin to recover and make decisions that will let you make your life better.

I feel that as we get "comfortable" we become complacent.  I know I do.  I have found myself becoming too comfortable in my marriage, in my friendships and in my work life.  When that happens, I tend to forget to appreciate the people that I love.  It's not that I don't know how blessed that I am, it's that I forget to let them know that I know how lucky I am to have them in my life- and everyone needs a little appreciation now and then.  Don't you hate to feel like you are taken for granted?  I know I do- but if there's one good thing that can come from feeling that way is that it can remind you that maybe- just maybe- there are people in your life who feel like you are not as appreciative of them too.  It can give you the reminder that you need to turn it around and make sure you let someone in your life know that you love them, you appreciate them and all that they add to your life.

If you let it, that kick in the pants can give you the motivation that you need to do something good for someone else.  It can let you see that there are parts of your life that you need to repair and take steps to get started.  It can help you see the blessings all around you, which in turn can diminish the pain and anguish that you are feeling.  If there is one thing that living with a pair of chronic illnesses has taught me it is that there is nothing that we can't overcome, and there is no situation in which we cannot find something positive if we just look.  Once we start seeing those blessings in our lives and more importantly; appreciating them- then we can enjoy the ride.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A new wrinkle in the RA journey

Last Friday I returned from an almost week long trip to Florida.  Sunday was travel, Monday my friends and I spent at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, Tuesday-Thursday were VERY full days of our annual meeting and trade show and Friday travel back home.

The trip to Universal was strictly to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  As biblio-dorks, we love the books, and the movies were top notch.  We were SO very excited and really enjoyed ourselves.  The best part was, having no children with us, we were able to wander around and spend as much or as little time at the attractions as we wished.  We ended up walking all of Islands of Adventure two and a half times over a span of 7 hours.  Nothing too arduous and truly enjoyable.

The work part of the week was a *bit* more strenuous but nothing horrid.  Which is why it was a very big surprise when, Tuesday night my feet and ankles started to swell. Nothing was hurting but they ballooned to the point that shoes had to come off and stay off early.  I woke up Wednesday morning and all was well but by Wednesday night- they were back to huge and though they weren't achy- they were swollen to the point that I could feel the....stretching of the skin?  It was wildly uncomfortable.  I talked to my bosses and received a "dispensation" to wear flip flops on Thursday to the trade show which was good because the swelling was not gone by morning and shoes were NOT fitting on my feet.  Friday- same thing.  I ended up traveling home in them- which was fine because I prefer to travel that way anyway.  Saturday and Sunday- I only bothered to put anything on to run to the store and by Sunday evening the swelling was gone enough to put on shoes for work on Monday.

Now, I know that inflammation and swelling is just a part of living with RA- but this was new to me.  Generally speaking, when I am swollen it's because my joints are inflamed and hurt like mad.  This time, the only discomfort was from the severe amount of swelling involved.  Where the foot and the ankle meet looked like two little fat rolls and the pressure was just...weird.  It wasn't that it was painful like the joint pain.  It was just so uncomfortable that I kept looking down to see what in the world was going on down there in my body.

So my question to my RA friends out there is:  Have you ever experienced this?  I am assuming it was because of the travel and the walking but since I walk regularly I am not positive.  I took photos for my next visit with my Rheumy but it just puzzles me so I wanted to reach out to you.  Any thoughts?  Suggestions?

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is Your Legacy?

I am in Orlando, FL this week for a series of meetings and our Back to Campus show for work. Two friends and I came down a day (and a half) early to get our geek on and go to Universal Studios "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" before joining colleagues nationwide tomorrow for a week of learning, networking and seeing the latest trends in merchandise.

This morning, I woke up a little later than normal. I am sitting outside this morning, all by my onesies, next to a fountain at my hotel. I have a cup of coffee in my hand and am just enjoying listening to the birds chirp and the rustle of the fronds of the palm trees. I brought along my latest Entertainment Weekly Magazine to pass the time and was reading an article entitled "Honoring TV Legend Valerie Harper". In case you didn't know; Harper, who is best known as TV's "Rhoda" from first The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then a spin-off of her own, recently announced that she has terminal brain cancer. The article is a beautiful testament to Harper's living legacy both as a television star and as a person. It's best summed up in this quote from producer James L. Brooks who said "Val always just lived. She spills support. It was almost excessive. All she ever did was pour out love and support." I think it's beautiful that this article is running now, while Ms. Harper is still alive to read it rather than as an "In Memorium" after her death.

Reading the article, which has dozens of quotes like this from friends and colleagues, got me thinking. If I were terminally ill or (God Forbid) to die tomorrow, what would people say about me? What legacy am I leaving behind for the people I have met? What would the people I have worked with, been friends with, people I have loved, say about me? I know what I hope they would say- but have I truly embodied the spirit of what I wish to be?

Here's the other thing running through my mind: Aren't we all "terminal" in a way? None of us is getting out of this alive, so why don't we tell one another how they have touched our lives? Wouldn't it be lovely to know if you have had a positive effect on someone before you leave this world? Wouldn't it be constructive to find out that you have negatively impacted someone so that you could make amends or repair that relationship? Not many of us are "celebrities" in the true sense of the word so it certainly need not be a public thing- but don't we all have people who have had a starring role in our lives? Don't we all have people who have had an impact on us without them even knowing it? As I write this, I think about a teacher I had in high school (a hundred years ago) who, at the time, I felt really believed in me. Oh, she may not remember me (it truly was 30 years and hundreds of students ago) but I remember her and the way she made me feel like I was truly better than the work I was doing. She woke me up to the fact that I was smarter than I was letting on in an effort to "fit in" with my crowd and that I didn't have to hide it. She never knew that she reached me. At 15-16 I never would have thought to let her know.

Why don't we tell them? What's stopping us from reaching out to the people that have been (and still are) important to us and letting them know how much they have meant to our lives? There is nothing "wrong" with it, nothing to be embarrassed about. I think what I will do is do a "Google search" on this teacher and just send her a card thanking her for what she did for me. Perhaps I will take it a step further and reach out to others who are meaningful in my life and do the same.

This is a challenge- for you and for myself. Tell one person who impacted you how they have made a difference in your life. Let them know because they may not realize it at all and it could really brighten their day. You can send them a card, write them a letter, or shoot them an email if you are too self conscious to say it in person. Just let them know now, before it's too late.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Family and Getting Back to Normal.

I had blocked off last weekend to head back to Tennessee for a round of plasma "donation" but at the last minute it didn't work out.  Instead, I packed up the puppies and headed to my folks.  It had been a month since I had seen them and though we talk often I have gotten very spoiled being able to pop down pretty much any time I want so I was missing them.

We didn't do anything "exciting" which was good.  I spent a lot of time on the sun porch reading, we watched a movie, went out to dinner, did a little work in the yard (they more than me), ran errands- just spent time together but by Saturday night I was starting to feel "normal" again.

Sunday morning, I had an epiphany.  I think that a very large part of the black cloud that has been hovering over my head is that I am overwhelmed in a big way.  I look at my house and I see so much housework to be done that I don't even know where to start.  I see "things" that I *could* get rid of, but it exhausts me just to think about making those decisions.  I think about work and know that I feel like I am constantly trying to play catch up.  I think about my personal goals and they seem so far out of reach.  I think about the fact that I am leaving Sunday for Florida and though Monday will be a personal day of fun with friends, I know that Tuesday through Friday will be work, work, more work and I feel like if I don't get my lists started now- I will forget something important that needs be done while I am there.

Spending the weekend with my parents with no pressure and no responsibilities did a lot to help me find the equilibrium that I need to get back on track.  I spent my drive home putting things into perspective.  I thought about what's important to me and what I need to prioritize when I get back from my trip.  I decided that those quiet hours were so restorative that I need to create a space in my house (and I know where it will be) that I can go to curl up and relax; with a book, with the puppies, with a movie- whatever- and I need to start using it on a regular basis.  I need to pull out my gratitude journal and start writing down something every day  for which I am grateful.  I need to get back to my "other" writing project which has been put aside for some time now.  I need to take advantage of the daylight savings time switch to get out and start walking again.

The plan is to spend the rest of this week preparing for next week's trip and then use the time away to creat a plan for my return.  I feel like I am heading in the right direction and that's a good feeling.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In a dark place

I have been in a pretty dark place for over a month now.  I know that losing my father-in-law started the process but what I don't know is how to navigate my way out of it.  I have been thinking a lot about death.  Mine and everyone else's.  I am not to the point of obsessing (thank goodness) but I am...noticing it more and more.  It seems as if so many people that I know are losing loved ones and on top of it the news is filled with stories of untimely and sad deaths.  Some have definitely affected me more than others.  For example:

Late last week there was more than one severe accident on 65 in Kentucky at the same time.  One one side of the highway a big rig hit a car and started a multi-car accident. Within moments, on the other side (they are separated by a very large median) the exact same thing happened.  In the end, there were 11 victims of the accident, six dead.  One of the dead was a 94 year old man.  I could not wrap my head around living ninety four years only to die in such a horrific manner.  There were also several foster children among the victims.  These poor kids had already had a tough life- only to die this way.   "How does that happen?"  and "How is that fair?" played in my head all weekend.  Incidentally- there was a very similar accident in the same spot yesterday.  Three accidents in less than five days- makes me hesitate to drive that area any time soon.

Friday a 17 year old girl was raped and murdered in her apartment by a known, convicted sex offender.  He was caught within 24 hours but how does that happen?  The man has been convicted of rape multiple times going back to the 80's.  I cannot understand WHY he was out and walking around in society.  I cannot imagine what this CHILD (and whether or not she was living on her own, she's still a child) went through.  It hurts my heart to even think about  what she suffered and it makes me so very angry to know that this man was free.

Last week there was an accident between a cab and a car, I believe in NY.  The man and woman in the car were killed.  It so happened that the woman was very pregnant and so the doctors delivered the baby with great hopes that she would survive.  Yesterday, she too passed away from extensive brain trauma from the accident.  When I initially heard about this accident I was so hopeful for this little baby.  When the news alerted that she had gone it was as if all of that hope was sucked right out like a balloon that had been blown up and slips out of your fingers before you tie it off.

Shootings, stabbings, overdoses, suicide, war; stories of these fill the news every day.  You cannot escape  it if you want to watch the news for current events.  What are we doing to ourselves?  What are we doing to one another?  What can we do to Just. Make. It . STOP?

And then there are the illnesses.  Every day we see and hear of friends, loved ones, members of our community who are battling horrible illnesses.  I don't mean the ones like mine which bring pain.  I mean illnesses that can be terminal.  Go to twitter.  Type in #CancerSucks and see how many hits you get.  I would be willing to bet at least weekly you see a meme on Facebook challenging you to repost if you support someone who is fighting for their lives.  I know I do.  WHY- with the millions and millions and millions of dollars raised for research and the many great minds working on these research projects- do we not yet have a cure?

This is where my head has been.  I hear about this and my mind fills with questions such as the ones above and then moves to "how will I die?"  I am not so much concerned with when but I think about the cause. Quietly and peacefully would be my preference- but with all that's wrong with this world, what are the odds of that?  I have been thinking about this far too often for someone who is trying to live from a positive place.  I know it will pass, I just don't know when.