Friday, October 10, 2014

The Verdict is In?

I saw my Rheumatologist today and the verdict is in;  I am a hot mess.

They now give you a "Patient Plan" at each visit that outlines everything going on.  Looking at my "plan" is depressing at best.

My "Problem List" reads as follows:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Degenerative Disc disease
  • Rheumatoid Lung disease
  • Acid Reflux
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

My meds list is now 8 RX's deep- plus a multi, B-12 and Prilosec.

Today's assessment reads:

1- Rheumatoid Arthritis is to the forefront (aka- I am starting to flare)
2- Current use of high risk medications (the Lasix perhaps?)
3-  Abnormal Liver Enzymes
4- Fibromyalgia is also at the forefront.

My weight has spiraled up, up, up since I quit smoking (almost) 10 months ago.  *It's as if my metabolism just died when I gave up on cigarettes and my BMI has ballooned*.  Vital signs are good- up a little but definitely within normal limits.

Current Orders:
- Begin Aquatic Physical Therapy after I return from my **vacation**
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
- Quantiferon (R) TB Gold (incubated)

Labs pending:
- C-Reactive Protein
- CBC (includes Diff/PLT)
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
-SED Rate by Modified Westeregren

See- Hot mess! Curling up in a ball and sleeping for the next.....5 years (?) sounds like a beautiful thing.  But that's just not possible.

Despite all of that- there are positives in my life.  These are the things I will be focusing on.

- Vacation.  Did I mention Vacation?  My best friend and I are heading to Florida next week for 5 glorious days.  We are meeting at the airport in Orlando, we are spending a couple of days at a resort on Cocoa Beach for a wedding of a dear friend, then moving to Universal Studios.  Sunday we will visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse.  It is reportedly haunted so we are going to do their night tour.  Check it out here.  Monday we are doing Harry Potter.  I know- most people go to Universal Studios to do the whole thing, but not us.  We will do the Wizarding World, Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley.  We really don't care about the rest.  The goal is to soak up as much of JKR's world as we can.  I am smiling just thinking about it.  I don't care how much  pain I am in, I have given myself days to recover when I come back.  We are doing all of the rides, we are doing all of the steps to the top of the lighthouse.  I will NOT allow my illness(es) hold me back from this once in a lifetime trip.

-Of course, there's my wonderful support system.  I have been very....whiny lately.  I hate whiny but I have just been so exhausted that I don't want to move and they have let me be.  That's the best thing we can do when I am like this. I have to do it, I don't have to like it.  Soon enough, if I keep it up they will give me a much needed kick in the a$$.

-My four-leggers.  A week or so ago, I just couldn't get out of bed.  I tried.  I got up and got ready for work and I was in so much pain, and so exhausted, that I called work and said that I would be a few hours late.  I didn't even change, I just fell back into my bed.  At 10:30 am, I tried to get going again and it just wasn't happening.  So I messaged my assistant manager and asked her to switch closing nights with me.  She agreed and I put my pajamas back on and went back to bed again.  I got up at 5 for a few minutes and 8pm for an hour or so then back to bed.  During this entire day- Auggie stayed in my bed with me.  He refused to move.  He curled up against my leg and stayed there.  The only reason I got out of bed was because he would not move away from me and I knew he HAD to go out and do his business and eat dinner.  Harley-girl is fighting her own arthritis so she lay down on the bottom step and stayed there.  When I came downstairs, she was my shadow.  Both of them offer such comfort.  I only wish I could be the person that deserves and is worthy of such devotion.

- My work.  It's at a place now in the cycle where I can sit to work. No 10-12-14-16 hour days on my feet.  There's a LOT of data entry right now, plus buying decisions, researching titles and emails flying but I don't have to be on my feet for any of it.  That's a relief.

- It's HAUNT season!  If you know me, you know I love, love, love Halloween.  I found my "niche" in the haunted house last year and I am back at it this year.  I can't tell you the joy it brings me.  I am sharing my weekends with a bunch of kids (I have bras older than a lot of them!) who are so creative and so thoughtful and so just excited to be there that I can't help but catch the excitement no matter how tired or sore I am.  They have been good to me too.  They are considerate of my limitations.  They are protective of my costumes and makeup and props and the room I am haunting in.  They even put a fan in there because my costume is so heavy!  Tonight there is a Halloween kick-off Parade.  I have been asked to walk in it but if I don't feel up to it, I can stay at the haunt and hand out candy.  They make me feel valued.  Like I make a true contribution- and I have so much fun doing it.  Everyone should have the opportunity to do this at least once.  :-)

I am sure there is more, but I have to take a nap before I go tonight.  I have a busy, busy, BUSY day tomorrow and won't be home till around 2am so I have to rest up while I am and the pups are both at my knee waiting to nap.

So the verdict for now is- yes, I am a mess physically but there are so many more things to be grateful for that I cannot let this overwhelm me.  We will see where we go with the new PT.  Until then, we take it one day at a time.

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

There is No Limit on Who Can Be Your Support System.

     I have worked with "kids" of all ages for almost 20 years now.  Working in the restaurant setting, the bar scene, on college campuses and now in haunted houses has opened my eyes to exactly how many different kinds of family units there are and how many people grow up in truly difficult situations.  Some have amazed me, some have horrified me, some have just plain broken my heart.

     I have mentioned here before how grateful that I am to have the support system that I do.  My family (those I have by blood, by marriage and by choice) and my friends mean the world to me.  They pick me up when I am down, even when they don't know I am down.  They are there for the good times and bad.  They are loyal and honest and loving.  My groups is very diverse.  Male, female, straight, gay, young, mature, sheltered and worldly; all different backgrounds, all different life experiences and all different ideologies. What they all have in common is that they care about me and I care about them.  I couldn't ask for a better group of people in my life.

So what I would like to say to my young friends is very simple:  you never know who will become part of your support system.

You will encounter new people every day.  Don't discount someone because they are not like you.

That person  you think is so different is living (has lived) a life you know nothing about until you take the time to ask.

It only takes one thread to bind you together on a deeper level.

Don't be afraid to cut the toxic people from your life, all they add to it is a lesson on how not to treat others.

Surround yourself with positive people, those who encourage you to be the best you that you can be.

Spend time with people from whom you learn, let go of those who only want to drag you down.

Stop and really look at your friends, your family,your acquaintances.  You may be surprised to find out who is really there for you.  Don't take those people for granted.

Most of all, share your lessons.  Part of grown your support system is being that person for others.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Had a Light Bulb Moment!


     When I am "haunting" I have a lot of time to think at the beginning of the evening.  Between makeup and getting into costume, waiting for the pre-haunt meeting and (being at the back of the house) waiting for the first groups to get from the front door to my room and then in between groups.  Yes, there are ambient noises but having spent as many years working in bars/nightclubs as I did- I can easily tune them out and almost meditate.  Unfortunately- I have not mastered meditation so my brain wanders all over the place- especially when I suck down two extra large coffees and already have a lot on my mind.

      As I was waiting this evening I was stretching a little and my arm did its "lets go numb" thing.  It instantly irritated me because frankly- regularly losing my strength and distinct tingling from my shoulders to my finger tips is getting old.  I shook it off after a few minutes and went back to "work".  A little while later it happened again and again and my frustration with it rose higher and higher.  About two and a half hours into the night we were back from a break and the tingling started to spread down my arm once again.  This time however was a little different.  I was relaxed from my break (and sucking back another coffee) and my end of the house was silent.  I was thinking about the herniated disc that's causing this problem and its counterpart in my lumbar vertebrae.  I considered that I have been battling lower back pain from the bad lumbar discs for many, many years now and this "falling asleep" thing in my upper body was fairly new. Rather than instant frustration a quiet thought slipped in.  "At least it's not pain".

     I actually jerked upright and took a step back for a second.  As the arm hung there in a full-on pins and needles state the light bulb came on and the thought seemed louder.  At least it's not pain.  I live with pain every single day.  Fingers, toes, hands, feet, knees, elbows, ankles, shoulders, back. Not always at once, usually bilaterally but not a day goes by that there's not some kind of pain.  The more I thought about this niggling little revelation I realized that the reason I have been so frustrated by this is not just that my body is falling apart.  I've been fighting pain and stiffness and loss of strength in my body daily for over 9 years now. I know how to deal with the pain.  I know how to medicate it, to compartmentalize it, to function with and through it and to give the stiffness time to work its way out so I can go about my day.

    No, the frustration comes because I don't yet know how to deal with this development.  What's really interesting is that while I was thinking this through, it came to me that this has been going on for longer than I wanted to think about.  I remembered talking to my sister over a year ago on several different occasions when I would be driving along and both my arm and my leg would go numb!  It's one of the things that I told the chiropractor at my early appointments and that's how we found of what rough shape my back was in.  It was an occasional thing and I thought it was more funny than irritating at the time but it was there.  When it clicked it was a "WOW" moment for me.  I pay a lot of attention to what my body is doing but this must have slipped by me until it got to the reached that that it was happening all too often to ignore.  At least it's not more pain.  I can live with this now, at least for the time being.  I will eventually have to decide if I can live with it long term or if I can take the time off that I will need to repair this latest insult to my body.  In the meantime, I have that thought to give me some peace of mind about the whole situation.  Now I know it could be worse. With that I can get some rest. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's A Wrong Side of the Bed Kind of Morning

     It's Saturday.  It's cloudy and overcast and I woke up good and cranky.  Hubby had to work this morning (that's a good thing) and his alarms went off at 6 and 6:10 because he had to leave at 6:30.  Evidently he was running late because he ran out quickly.  As soon as he left- the dogs LOST IT.  This was a break with their routine.  Normally when one of their humans wakes up- they go right out to do their business.  This time, one human jetted out the door and one stayed in bed.  They didn't like it and set up a ruckus.

     Normally I would be thankful for sleeping till 6:30- that's 2 hours after I normally wake up after all.  But last night I took a Lunesta because I haven't been sleeping well and I don't know about you- but when I take a Lunesta (or Ambien, or AdvilPM or any sleep aid), unless I sleep until it wears off, I wake up feeling like I am hung over.  That's not a good feeling.  To top it off, my shoulder started doing the "go numb and throb" thing which means I tossed and turned and slept so that the disc is inflamed and both wrists joined in the fray.  So- crankiness ensued.

    Now you may be asking "Why didn't you just go back to bed?"  Well, with the way the pain kicked in, I had to take my meds ASAP, and for some reason my Tramadol wires me right up.  That means I had to choose between sleeping off the Lunesta or taking the pain meds and the pain meds won.

     While I am waiting for the meds to kick in I have looked over my schedule for the week, checked 2 of my personal email accounts, took care of some stuff work work and watch some fluff on the DVR.  I have to get some laundry folded, pay some bills and then hopefully nap before I head to the Morgue for "Scare Tactics" and makeup rehearsal tonight.  Next weekend begins full dress rehearsals for our haunted house with "Friends and Family" night on the 26th- so that's something to look forward to.  That means my weekends will be booked through November 1st and it's a lovely thing.

    I also got to talk to my sweet son this morning.  Josh and I used to talk every day but he has gotten a promotion to "Site Director" and his hours have changed.  Between his new responsibilities (welcome to management honey!) and being a father to his lovely girlfriend's kids, his time is stretched thin and we haven't been able to connect the way we used to on a daily basis.  This morning he and Christina were taking their couch to the recycling center (they are getting a new one this week) and he gave me a call just so we could catch up.  I miss him like crazy but I know that if he were out here, his life would be very different.  He would not have his little family (and he is so crazy about Christina, Jake and Abbey) and he would not be managing a site for work.  The irony is- he stayed behind because of his karate and recently he has left the dojo.  He decided to step away from his position teaching kenpo and concentrate on learning Brazilian Jui Jitsu.  He's been taking classes for a while now and discovered that he really missed being a student.  His life has undergone so many changes in the last few years and he has grown up so very much.  I make sure to tell him often how very proud of him I am.  It's important that he knows that because we are so far apart.

    The more I think forward, the more I get over myself and the day starts to brighten, even if the weather doesn't.  They say there is only a 20% chance of rain but it's crazy overcast.  Not a bad thing at all.  It's chilly enough that I won't sweat myself through my costumes tonight.  Both are really heavy so when it's hot- it's a good thing I have barrier spray because I would sweat my makeup right off!  :-)   That will make it much easier tonight to play with makeup.  So there we go.

     I hope you are having a lovely weekend!  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's the Little Things

     Those who are friends with me on Facebook have probably seen that I recently cut my hair off.  This was a huge deal for me.  I love(d) having long hair.  When the stylist cut it, the first swoop through was to the tune of 8-10 inches. The first clump that fell in my lap had me taking a quick intake of breath with thoughts of "Oh God, what have I done?"  After- I think it looks really cute.  It's easier to care for, that is certain and that was the goal.  You see, courtesy of the herniated disc in my neck, I keep having my shoulder and arm fall asleep.  It's not painful, it's just the pins and needles thing, but it is very irritating.  Especially when it happens every time I try to brush my hair or if I lean on my desk or lean against the car door.  It usually involves a few minutes of trying to shake it out because the strength drains as the numbness sets in.  So- I chopped off the hair since I could not properly care for it in a reasonable amount of time.  I then sank into a bit of a funk because I felt like I had sacrificed my slow-growing, long, straight hair to the Gods of Chronic Illness.

    Another issue that I have been dealing with is a LOT of Acid Reflux- especially at night.  I cannot tell you how many times lately that I have woken myself up coughing and choking on acid and the burning in my chest.  The doc has put me on Prilosec and it helps- but it's not an "every day for the rest of your life" drug so shortly after tapering off, it comes back with a vengence.  Sunday night it was so bad that I woke my poor husband up almost every time I woke up.  Now, himself normally sleeps like the dead and is cranky if woken in the middle of his sleep but he really came through.  I sat up in the bed, groped around for TUMS and in tears because the acidity was so bad in my throat and I didn't realize that I had woken him.  Without a word, he got up went downstairs and grabbed me a bottle of water.  Each time after- he woke up and made sure I had water available and stayed up with me until I could get back to sleep.

Neither of these things are earth shattering.  While I understand that, it came as a revelation that it's the little things that can make a huge difference.  Something as simple as a haircut can spiral you down, down, down while a gesture of kindness can make things all better.

So I ask this of you.  When you are out and about today, in interactions with others or even when you find yourself facing self-doubt, stop.  Think about how your actions create a ripple effect.  All it takes is a pebble to form ripples across a pond.  All it takes is a kind word or gesture- or a careless word or thoughtless action to make or break your day or that of those around you.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It's Always Something.

It's back to school time again.  That means I am incredibly busy at work and working too many hours.  It happens twice a year for about a month each time and by the end, I am like this guy:

My thanks to whomever created this!

It seems that every "Rush" something happens.  Last Fall was when I was diagnosed with 5 bad discs in my back and then stressed myself out so much that I had horrific hives.  This year, I am having a tremendous amount of swelling in my feet and ankles.  My NP thinks I am retaining water so she has added Lasix and Potassium supplements to my medicinal arsenal.  That means, including vitamins and such, we are at 6 pills in the morning, 3 at noon and 5 in the evening.

 Before she could prescribe the Lasix she did blood-work. She found that though my kidneys are great (that's important to the water pill) my liver enzymes are elevated again so I will have to go back in two weeks to have them checked again.  She advised that I stay away from alcohol (ummm, I average 2 drinks per YEAR and have for 6 years now) Tylenol (I knew that- do you KNOW how many meds have acetaphinamen in them?) and Advil.  I came home and looked it all up online to see if there's anything that I can do that doesn't involve meds and I found that B-12 helps so that became morning pill #7. 15 pills a day.  That's a lot by any standard.  I also found that eating whole foods and less processed can help as can things like Kale and berries and such.  So- this morning I will be having whole grain toast with a little Jif Whips (peanut butter with chocolate) and banana (go Potassium!).  For lunch it's brown rice and kale salad.  Dinner will be at work because we have an event tonight from 7-10.  I have ordered a bunch of food- including a popcorn machine, a cheese tray and a veggie tray so I will stay with those and stay away from the yummy brownies and such.  I am going to have to be really mindful of what I am eating because to be quite frank- I am not up to dealing with any more ailments.  It's just too much.

That said- I am still looking for silver linings.  I am grateful that with all that's going on I haven't wanted to go back to smoking.  I am grateful that I have wonderful parents who fuss at me if I am not taking care of myself. I am grateful that hubby is back home and we are working on repairing our relationship.  I am grateful to have a son who calls or texts me every day.  I haven't figured out how to be grateful for my 47-year-old-out-of-shape-and-falling-apart body, but given enough time I will.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's a Drive By Post!

Morning All!  Just a quick drive-by post this morning as I am heading into my RUSH period at work.  For those that don't know me, that means that it's "Back-To-School" time and managing a college bookstore, this is my Black Friday period.  It will be crazy busy for the next 3 weeks and I will be working 6-7 days a week.  It's wearing- and exhilarating at the same time.

Yesterday started the latest round of Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 30-day meditation "course".  This is a great time for this for me personally because I get their email in the morning, then in the evening when I am trying to shut off my brain so I can get some sleep I repeat their "Centering Thought" over and over until I drop off.  It's VERY helpful.  I am going to post today's email below to share with you along with a link if you want to join in.  Have a wonderful day!

Day 2 — Feeling Inspired
Welcome to Day 2 of Expanding Your Happiness.
Today in meditation, we connect with our inner being, the source of all inspiration, creativity, insight and joy. In opening our hearts and minds to pure spirit, we allow ourselves to take it in to recreate and to renew ourselves. Inspiration is not only for artists and visionaries, we all benefit when our lives are refreshed and revitalized with spirit every day.
Meditation opens us to infinite possibilities and allows us to remake ourselves anew each time we sit in silence. To feel inspired is to step into the present experience unfettered by past disappointments and future fears. You are free to participate in the creative joy of life in the moment.
Our centering thought for today is:
I am filled with spirit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Does It Make You Feel?

     It's been a long time (over 3 months) since I posted.  Life is still in flux and in flux tends to make me crazy.  I am a bit of a creature of habit.  I am a planner and when I can't plan, I feel a bit out of sorts.  That is not to say that I can't be spontaneous, I just need to know that I have X block of time to hang with these people and I will be home at Y time.  For me the biggest thing that hinders that is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It's incredibly disappointing and frustrating (for me and the people involved) when I make plans and so very look forward to them and at the last moment a wave pure exhaustion washes over me and it's all I can do to get home and crawl in my bed.

     Back in December on the post A Long and Winding Road I mentioned that they were checking me for lung issues.  Well, to follow up; I have had a second CT scan.  The pulmonologist said that the lining of my lungs has a "broken glass" look to it and said that that is caused by Non-specific Interstitial Pneumonia.  My Rheumy said that couple that with what looks like rheumatoid nodules in the lungs the overall diagnosis is Rheumatoid Lung Disease.    I don't physically feel bad.  Still, as before, I wouldn't even know I had this has we not had X-rays and the CT scans.  In fact, I haven't even been sick-sick since I quit smoking (knock wood) so if anything, I feel better than I did 6 months ago or so.  The treatment for this illness is exactly the same as my RA: Immunosuppressants and NSAIDS to try to prevent further damage.  My rheumy said that there is something else that we can try if this fails but as always it's a game of "hurry up and wait" for this offshoot of the RA.  

     When I shared this info on Friday my dad popped on Facebook Messenger (where my family talks ALL the time :-) ) and asked me about the diagnosis.  He then asked me "How do you feel about that?"  At the time my reply was simple:  "I feel like I am tired of hearing "there's nothing we can do except watch and see" I am also flat worn out from the cortisone injection and blood work. I swear she put knockout drops in there-lol"
It's true, I am tired of all of these "sub-diagnosis" surprises.I am tired of blood work every 4 months.  I am tired of my body rebelling against me.  I am tired of dieting and still gaining weight.  I am tired of being so tired I just can't exercise.  I can't imagine how tired of all of this that people who are less "stable" than I am are feeling.  .

     What struck me last night in thinking about all of this is that while I have a truly wonderful support system who look out for me and love me, I don't think anyone has ever asked me that question in that context before.  Oh, they often ask me how I am feeling physically and are truly interested in the answer, I don't think anyone has ever asked me how I feel about all of this stuff and the prognosis' that go along with each illness. Consequently I think I have focused on how I feel physically and really haven't take the time to explore how I feel about the internal rebellion.

     I don't mean I have never had a "why me" moment.  Trust me- I have.  Especially in the midst of a flare.  I have also processed the overall situation enough to know that I have to count my blessings or I will simply crawl in my bed and not come out.  On the other hand, I have never really stopped to explore how I really feel about all of this.  At this point, I just don't know.  I think it's going to take some time for me to get inside my own head and figure it out.  As I tend to compartmentalize, it's going to take some work.  The bad thing about that is that I am heading dead into my "Rush" period at work and from now till Labor Day I will be crazy busy.  The good thing is, I will have the "quiet time" at home should I have the mental energy to do the work since the husband is leaving on Sunday to go away for Truck Driving School.  He will be gone for several months as he does the classroom stuff for 3 weeks and then has to drive with a trainer for a couple thousand miles.  I am okay with this and actually happy for him as this is something he has wanted to do for at least 7 years.  That means it will be just the puppies and I at home for a few months.  Another change of schedule, another journey but time to stop and just sit in the quiet and think should I be so inclined.

     So I wonder- has anyone ever asked you how you feel about all of this?  If so, what did you say?  I do want to take a minute to thank my papa for asking me the question that is sending me off on this quest.  Thanks Daddy!

  In closing; I was looking for my Facebook QOTD and I found this that applies here too:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

― Viktor E. FranklMan's Search for Meaning

I think I will keep Mr. Frankl's words in mind as I sift through the emotional and mental part of having multiple incurable medical issues.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Two good blogs to share this morning.

I want to share with you today a review of a book for us Rheumies by my friend Wren.  In the first line of the review Wren poses the question " If you could help someone else through the shock and dread of an unexpected rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and its aftermath, you’d try, wouldn’t you?"  

This review made me stop and think, not just about my illnesses but about how I am approaching all aspects of my life.  The book "Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis", by Lene Anderson, is targeted toward new RA patients but from the exerpts in the review, both new and old patients could benefit from its wisdom.  

You can find Wren's review here.

On another note, if you want a daily dose of gratitude from a "real person"- my Dad has a blog called "Notes from the Sunporch".    He starts his morning in my favorite place- their sunporch- and takes great pleasure in the birds, the critters and the flowers that are in his gorgeous view from his recliner.  I hope you enjoy.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

From Zen Habits: On Making It Through Tough Journeys

I subscribe to this blog and receive great posts regularly.  This one in particular came today and it really resonated with me so I wanted to share it with you.  I have linked to the blog in the title so you can read more of Leo's writing.

Have wonderful day my friends.

On Making It Through Tough Journeys

By Leo Babauta

A reader wrote to me about a very tough journey he and his wife are setting out upon, and asked for some words of advice or motivation though this tough time.

Difficult times can be a test of our souls, and as such can be some of the most instructive times possible.

It’s easy to be happy and motivated when things are going well. But what happens when they fall apart, or unexpected troubles come your way, or things go exactly as you don’t want them to? What do you do then?

I’ll share some things I’ve been learning about personally, and give you a word of encouragement: you are stronger than you think.

You’ll go through difficult times, and suffer, and learn. And come out stronger and better at the other side.

There are four things that I’ve been learning about that help me through tough times:

1. Happiness isn’t outside of us
We often seek happiness outside of ourselves, through pleasure (food, shopping, video games, TV, Internet, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) or other people (the person of our dreams, approval of others, social networks) or big life goals (travel, creating a business, art).

But I’ve learned that none of those things actually makes you happy. Sure, they can give you a boost of pleasure or joy, but it’s temporary and soon you’re looking for the next thing that will make you happy. This leaves you in a constant state of seeking pleasure, distraction, approval, comparisons to others, and so on. And it doesn’t result in contentment.

However, if we realize that happiness isn’t outside of us, but actually comes from within … then we can always access it. What is the source of this inner happiness? I find that I can do certain things that make me happy: being grateful for who I am and what I have, learning about myself and the world, playing and being curious, thinking about others and wishing them happiness … these things might be tied to external things (what I have, other people), but they are available no matter where I am, what I have, who is in the world.

And they can help during a tough journey. If you can find happiness inside you, then no matter what’s happening externally, you can access this source of happiness. You might lose your job, get sick, lose a loved one, have to go through a difficult medical procedure, go through a divorce … and you can still find this happiness. It’s there if you choose to use it. The external circumstances of your life matter, but they don’t take away your true source of happiness.

2. Embrace your entire range of experiences
Too often we want just a small range of experiences — the good things, the comfortable things, the experiences that make us feel good about ourselves. And yet, reality is different. It gives us a lot of different kinds of experiences, from anger and frustration to joy to pleasure to coldness to loneliness and grief. These are all part of our human condition, unavoidable.

So we can rail against the injustice of having to lose something we love, having to go through difficulty, having to be lonely and sad, having to be treated unfairly. That will just lead to more unhappiness.

Or we can embrace the entire range of our experiences. That will include all our emotions, all our joyful moments and painful ones and everything in between. Life is not just the warm and beautiful. It’s all of it.

Embracing these experiences means taking everything in with open arms, being vulnerable to whatever happens, being compassionate with ourselves when things are hard, giving ourselves some kindness and love and gratitude no matter what happens. It means accepting what is, and accepting ourselves as we are, not trying to mold ourselves into the perfect human, whatever we think that may be. Not trying to mold our lives into the perfect lives, whatever we think that may be.

This isn’t easy, I’ll admit, but this kind of openness leads to much greater happiness with life.

3. Renew your gratitude
Our lives are filled with miraculous gifts, and we are constantly taking them for granted, and complaining that life isn’t better. I do it myself, all the time. But when I catch myself doing this, and remember to be grateful, life is suddenly so much better.

Is your job boring? You might be grateful you have a job at all, a roof over your head, food on the table. Are you unappreciated? You might be grateful you have anyone in your life at all, perhaps some loved ones.

You have life. This is such an incredible gift.

You might be grateful for your health, if you have it. Or you might not have perfect health, but you have legs to walk on. If you have no legs, perhaps you have eyes to enjoy the sight of a cherry blossom or sunset. If you have no eyes, perhaps you can hear music. If you have none of these, perhaps you can still learn things from reading in Braille. Imagine being without the joy of Tolstoy and Shakespeare and Cervantes! We live in an amazing world, no matter what our circumstances.

And for anyone reading this (myself included), we need to think about how incredible it is that we have computers, and smart phones, connected to a powerful thing called the Internet. We have comfortable homes, great food, fairly good health, books to read, gorgeous nature all around us, people who love us. That’s quite miraculous, and yet we take it all for granted.

When times get tough, you might not have all of this. But you still have a lot to be grateful for.

4. Find Lovingkindness to yourself
As we work on embracing the entire range of our experiences, there will be some difficulty. It’s not always easy to allow ourselves to be sad, scared, frustrated, or grieving.

How do we live through these experiences without giving up?

We find compassion for ourselves, kindness, love.

Suffering in all kinds of ways is part of our experiences as humans. We suffer, in ways small and large, and we want to be happy. We all have that in common.

And so accepting our suffering and desire to be happy as a part of being human … we then turn to wanting our suffering to end. Wishing ourselves happiness and wellbeing.

This is kindness and compassion for our suffering selves. It’s not feeling sorry for ourselves, but wanting ourselves to be happy.

Whenever we see pain and fear in ourselves, we can recognize it, and wish ourselves happiness. Wish an end to the suffering. Be kind to ourselves.

And then, having given ourselves this kindness, we can turn to the person next to us, and recognize they are also suffering and just want to be happy. If they lash out at us in anger, recognize that they are just suffering like us. And wish them happiness, wish an end to their suffering.

In doing so, we can melt our own hardened hearts, open ourselves to others, embrace them with love. And the journey, as hard as it may be, becomes better.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Brick and Mortar Guys

This little "ditty" was written by a bookseller at one of our stores.  Every one of us who's come across it is sharing it.  It feels SO very true.

Brick and Mortar Guys
by Jason Michael Howe
Barnes & Noble Store #02814
Pembroke Pines, FL
(And apologies again for unintentionally hijacking the other thread.)
A long, long time ago...
I can still remember how
those book stores used to make me smile.
And I know if I could go back,
I'd buy books there by the stack,
no matter if I had to walk a mile.
But Amazon, they made me quiver...
with every order they delivered.
Brown boxes on my doorstep,
I didn't have to take one more step...
I can't remember if I cried,
the first time I found one just outside...
I opened the box and looked inside...
the day... the book stores... died.
So bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Were you there in their store,
reading books while lying on the floor,
when an employee asked you to move?
Did you ask to charge your phone?
Leave a pile of books in cafe and only buy a scone?
Do you ever wonder why you're alone?
Well, I know that you loved their place,
high-end boutiques now fills their space,
What other stores are left to choose?
You should be singin' the blues!
All you had to do was spend a buck,
drive to their store in your pickup truck,
but now you're out of luck.
The day the book stores died.
You started singin'
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Now, for ten years we've been on our own
clicking Buy from the comfort of our home
But that's not how it used to be!
Employees sang for storytime,
an author signing didn't cost a dime,
and then they'd sit and talk with you and me.
But to kick them while they're down,
Amazon had to steal their crown,
No worries of tax evasion,
they've got bribes and other persuasion.
And while book stores closed up shop,
employees wished they could make them stop,
but now they're at Employment One Stop.
The day the book stores died.
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Helter Skelter up on Capitol Hill
Congress had submitted a bill
about collecting online tax.
It's odds were better than legal grass
The bill now looked for sure to pass
With Amazon, on the sidelines, all aghast.
Now poetic justice came to mind
What legal recourse could they find?
Former employees nearly danced with joy,
but Amazon had one more ploy!
They tried to open brick and mortar stores
thinking they'd do better than those before
Do you recall the final score
The day the book stores died?
We started singin'
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Oh, and there we were all in one time
A generation lost online
With no way to go back again.
C'mon Amazon, sell those books!
Amazon, you're just a crook.
Complacency is your best friend!
And as I watched on their newsfeed
Smiling faces filled with greed
No company born online
Could catch their lead this time.
And as flames spread on the forum sites
Booksellers read them on lonely nights
While Amazon laughed with delight.
The day the book stores died.
They were singin'
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
I met a girl who had shelved their stacks
And I asked if they'd ever come back
But she just cried and ran away
I went down to my local store
Where I'd purchased books years before
A homeless man there said they took his restroom away.
And down the streets the parents walked,
their children cried, their tweens all balked.
But not a word was spoken;
their spirits had been broken.
Now no one comes at my behest
But I shop for books without getting dressed
If I think too hard I'll get depressed
The day the book stores died.
And we're all singing...
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...
online shopping has become my vice...
Bye bye brick and mortar guys,
it's just not fair with next day air and a lower online price.
Having people who would help me, man it sure was nice.
But online shopping has become my vice...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Flitting Visions of Hope


     It has been a seemingly VERY long winter here in Kentuckiana.  It's the third of March.  I know the whole "In like a lion" thing.  It was a mere two years ago we had the horrible tornadoes that demolished Henryville and this year- ice and snow in the form of Winter Storm "Titan".  What in the world is going on with Mother Nature?  Have we finally ticked her off to the point that she's become irrational?

    That said- an extra day off with my puppies is always welcome, especially when I can get a little cleaning done around the house in the process.  I have been slowly spot cleaning my carpet over the last few weekends.  I can't do the whole thing at once because I can't cordon the dogs off from the entire carpeted world.  I am using the vinegar and baking soda method (works GREAT!) and so I apply it at night and let it dry overnight then vacuum in the morning- or vice versa.  The dogs want nothing to do with the vinegar smell so they leave the area alone.  I had noticed that the vacuum was getting sluggish but the husband has always dealt with all things vacuum related.  Not knowing when he will be by again, I decided to figure it out by myself.  Well- apparently I have waited too long and the canister (it's a bag-less vacuum) was overly full.  I pulled the canister of and stuff flew everywhere.  I let out a deep sigh, considered banging my head against a wall for a few minutes and then proceeded to empty out the canister, take it apart, clean all of the filters with hot soapy water and then sweep up the biggest part of the mess  and then lay down on the couch for a bit (hoping to take a nap) while I waited for the filters to dry.

It was still a bit early so the pups were still in their "morning wired" phase.  One was perched on one couch, one on the back of the loveseat watching the world through the living room window.  Both went crazy when the mailman came by and then we all settled down again and both of them were giving off occasional happy little "boofs" so I gave up on sleep and looked out to see what was interesting them.  At first I just saw birds.  Not unusual at all as they have been making their homes in the trees for weeks.

Then I saw them.  Against the background of the snow and ice, little glimpses of color.  Against the bricks of the adjacent buildings, little pops of white.  I went outside and there they were- butterflies!  Flitting from shrub to shrub, in between the buildings and back again.  The sun was coming out and the ice glazing the shrubs and trees was giving off a glare but there were the butterflies, swooping and streaming and chasing one another with abandon.  A sure sign of spring while we are covered in a blanket of snow and ice.  With a smile, I went back inside knowing that no matter how cold it is now, soon it will all be over for another eight or nine months and we can all get back to normal routines.  I know the pups are more than ready to be able to go outside without scrambling across the ice or being up to their bellies in snow.  I know I am ready to take them for nice long walks again.  I don't know how many snow days we have had thus far but I would happily give them up for the warmer climate and now I have hope that Spring will be here soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Daily Good

I want to share a website with you that was passed to me inadvertently from a friend.  I have signed up for their newsletter and have really enjoyed spending time reading the wonderful stories of what normal, every day folks are doing just for the sake of making their part of the world a little better. The site curates stories from all over the world.  With the daily news being 98% bad news can't we all use some good news?  As I have said before, I have found that with all of the uncertainty in my life these last months it has been harder to find my gratitude place but stories like this help tremendously.  The story below was in my inbox on Saturday.  This is an example of their regular site content:

Chai and Love

--by Soma Basu, syndicated from, Feb 15, 2014

R.Sekar is extremely reluctant to even put on a shirt for the photograph. I point out to the hole in his vest. “That’s me,” he says bluntly.
I spot the frown on his face. He doesn’t like talking about himself, his family or the work he does. Extremely reticent, he sticks to his schedule of opening his tea shop on the Ponmeni Narayanan Street in S.S.Colony at 4.30 a.m. sharp and serves the day’s first round of steaming chai to about two-dozen watchmen who do night duty in the area. He runs the shop till 11 p.m. selling over 300 cups of tea, coffee and milk besides biscuits, cakes, laddus, murukkus and other savouries. Communication with customers is restricted to business only.
Yet the Meenakshi Coffee Bar which he runs with his two brothers in S.S.Colony is popular. Not for the knick-knack items it sells. Not even for the hundreds of cups of tea and coffee for which it is known. But for Sekar and his kind heartedness.
Daily morning Esaki, affected by leprosy, comes in a tricycle and stops by the tea shop. Sekar gives him tea in a disposable glass and some biscuits. The two never speak. In fact, they have never exchanged a word, except for once when Sekar asked him his name and age.
Eight years ago when he came the first time, says Sekar, I sensed he wanted to drink tea but did not have the money. “From that day, this appointment has continued uninterrupted,” he says.
If Sekar meets somebody who can not afford something, he reaches out wherever possible. For instance, he was moved by the plight of eight-year-old Sivatharini, diagnosed with blood cancer. Her poor parents cannot arrange nutritious meal for her as advised by the doctor. For the last three years, ever since Sekar was introduced to the little girl by a friend in the locality, he has been supplying milk and fruits to her whenever she is admitted to the hospital for treatment or is recuperating at home.
“I am reminded of my difficult childhood when my parents couldn’t manage even one meal a day for the family. I know what it means to starve and how difficult it is when your basic needs are not met,” he says.
Every Friday he unfailingly sends five litres of milk each along with buns and other savouries to three different Homes for special and orphaned children. The tea shop is 35 years old and is known to every resident of the area. But the silent service Sekar renders is not known to many.
“I am a simple man who wants to do little bit of charity because it gives happiness,” he insists. From days of nothing, Sekar says he has come to a position when he can give no matter how small. “There are so many people with so much money but either do not have the time or the inclination to help. God gives us in his own way and we find our ways to help others,” he says.
Quite regularly a motley group of school students gathers at his shop in the evenings. The children usually come asking for stationery items, notebooks and books. “I make a note of their requirements and get it for them.” Sekar never hands over cash but buys the item a person needs.
During the new academic session every summer, lot of poor parents turn to him for help. The soft-spoken Sekar never turns them down and helps them with the purchase of school bags, uniforms, lunch box, water bottles and any other item.
The earnings from the shop are divided among the three brothers. Sekar doesn’t keep an account of how much of his money he uses to help others.
“I am happy with what I have and can do with even less. I do not need more. What will I do?” he asks. He shows you only have to have a heart to help others.  
You can find The Daily Good here.   I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and a big Thank You to Amy Dixon for linking one of their stories on your Facebook page and leading me here.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just a quick note

It's almost Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day.  What type of post would YOU like to see for this event?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hello 2014- What do you have planned for me?

     I am one of those people that treats the new year as a new start and always make resolutions.  For example, for many years now I have resolved to quit smoking, lose weight, take more time for myself.  Pretty standard and non-specific resolutions.  Well- it took until December 17th but I finally, Finally, FINALLY quit smoking. 

      I am using e-cigarettes to do so.  I hate typing that because I feel that the name "e-cigarette" is a misnomer.  We who use the product are not, in fact, smoking.  The battery heats the "juice" to create a water vapor.  Much like we all do when we walk outside on a cold morning and create "steam".  For those that don't know, the e-cigarette juice is made of exactly four (compared to the estimated 600 in cigarettes which create over 4000 chemical compounds when burned) ingredients:  Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, Food Flavoring and Nicotine.  Yes- industrial grade propylene glycol is found in anti-freeze- but we are talking pharmaceutical grade here which is used in the following foods:

- Most cake/cupcake mixes
- Some frostings
- Lots of ice cream brands - Cold Stone Creamery and Graeter's Ice Cream both contain this, plus supermarket brands
- Many McDonald's sauces - including Big Mac sauce and their mayonnaise
- Some flavoring syrups
- Most beers use it as a foaming agent
- Cornbread and muffin mixes
- Coffee (specifically Folgers -- probably others)
- Candy
- Fast Food
- Many salad dressings
- Biscuits in the can that you bake at home
- All flavored coffee's of any brand use PG as a solvent/emulsifier to get the "flavoring" into the bean..... it's part of their manufacturing process.   

Sorry- I didn't mean to go off on a tangent but the biggest objections that I have heard was that people are worried about the vapor in the air- Second-hand vapor?  There's a recent study from Drexel University (found here) that refutes any safety concerns completely- making the bans on e-cigarettes in different place all the more ridiculous.  Especially since so very many of us are using them to quit smoking.  

To get back on track- this is the first time in 31 years that "quit smoking" hasn't been on my resolutions list.  This year my resolution list includes (but is not limited to):

  • Take better care of ME overall.
  • Make sure I take all of my meds daily (I tend to get busy and forget).
  • WALK!  I have gotten lazy about taking the puppies for long walks-it's time to get back to it.
  • Read a minimum of 1 book a week.
  • Complete 50% of the next book I am writing.
  • Drink 4 bottles of water daily.  
  • Get back into the blogging habit.
  • Get back to the habit of using my blessings box.  

So what about you?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you generally keep them?  Do you treat the new year as a fresh start or is it just another day for you?