Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Time For Another Business Trip

   I am off to Cleveland again this morning.  Though I am dreading the 6 hour drive I am very much looking forward to spending time with "my girls".  We are very fortunate that we have some good people in our group and specifically, that the girls at IU East and IU Northwest and I (IU Southeast) really like one another and enjoy spending our limited time together.  I can't imagine how tough it would be if we didn't get along.  We all have to drive in a day early due to the length of the drive.   I will leave here in about an hour, get there around 3 (which is check-in time) and have time to take a nap before the girls get in around 6.   Two of us room together and  so I will know when they get in and we will meet up, go to dinner and catch up before we start the meeting in the morning with the rest of the region.  We will do meetings all day and evening tomorrow and all day Thursday and then make the long drive home.  I am grateful that I get to see the girls and we do this together since we are too far apart to spend regular time together.

By the time I get home my back (and possibly hips) will HATE me- but I will have the weekend to lay on the couch and recover.  My DDD and RA aren't crazy about turn-around trips but when I go to Tennessee I can rest in-between,  When we have our meetings it's essentially "Forced Family Fun" from 7am to 10 or 11pm every day.  We are in chairs all day, then spend dinner and the evening together.  This time it's a team-building exercise.   Fortunately, when  I make it home I will have a puppy waiting for me who will snuggle up and love on me as long as I need.  Unfortunately, I won't see the husband until Friday because he will be at work by the time I get home.  It's a trade off I will take because he is really liking working for Lowes.  I am grateful for King Pup.  He makes me look forward to coming home and makes my recovery a bit more palpable.
In terms of my work- my second Summer session started yesterday.  That means that in a week or so we will rope off that section and offer counter service only while we prepare for Fall.  This summer is FLYING by in terms of prep-time,  I need to look at my calendar and figure out when I will devote a weekend to walking, shifting and re-setting my shelves.  I have done very well (if I do say so myself) in letting go of much of my textbook duties and giving them to my Assistant, even though they are my wheel-house, my comfort zone, my "baby" so to speak.  As it's my first big season without having control- I have to do a walk-through and adjustment.  I can't just assume all is well because I am the one who will have to be the one who answers for any issues in the end.  Such is the fun of being "the boss."  I am grateful that I am free to rearrange my schedule so that I can do big tasks like this when we are closed and at my own pace.

Well, I must finish subtly packing.  Auggie loses it when he realizes I am leaving and so I have to pack bit-by bit.  The suitcase is closed, I am just finishing my backpack.  I just have to let my work iPad charge as much as I can before heading out.  Then, I will convince the dog he needs to go outside (Bunny chasing perhaps?) and take the luggage out the front door. At the moment he is snoozing at my feet under my desk, so this may be tough.

Have a lovely, lovely week!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Peppermint Tea, Ginger and Flexibility

     As good as I thought Monday started out, it quickly devolved.  Shortly after I hit "Publish" on my post, I started to feel ill.  When I say ill, I mean ILL.  Over the last two days I have dealt with the effects of what we think was less than stellar seafood on Sunday night.  It was ugly.  We have narrowed it down to that because hubby was affected too- but he only ate a little of it and he was less affected.

    Monday at work I was....out of the office (I am sure you get my meaning) as much as I was in.  I think most of the 8800 steps on my Fitbit were earned running back and forth to the ladies room.  This continued all night to the point that I barely slept.  Yesterday morning I sent a text to my Assistant Manager asking her to cover my close as the issue was ongoing.  She graciously said yes and I crawled into my recliner and didn't move unless necessary for the day.

    Because of all of the meds I am on I prefer not to treat with medication when possible.  With previous damage to my liver (thanks MTX!) I am so afraid to take anything that affects that area. Thankfully I had a box of Twining's Peppermint Tea K-cups for my Keurig on hand.  Peppermint is a great soother for your stomach and it helped a lot.  I also keep Gin-Gins on hand all of the time because I just love them but Ginger also helps settle your stomach.  So these two became my saviors. I discovered the hard way that caffeine was a huge trigger.  I thought I was getting low on the Peppermint tea so I made a cup of green tea (less caffeine than coffee but still has it in it) and added mint from my garden and nearly undid the progress.   But, I found another box (YAY) that I had stashed away and in the meantime I switch to water in an infuser filled with fresh mint.  

     This morning I am feeling human again but I am taking all of those things with me *just in case* eating solid food sets me off again and I am stopping for flowers for my Assistant Manager who covered me yesterday and my Full-time bookseller.  They are both so good about covering the store when I am not doing well- be it illness or a flare- and I just want to show them that I appreciate it.  It's a small token but it's something I can do.  It's a total blessing that I have people at work who are flexible about changing their hours so that I can tend to my "stuff" and not worry about my job.  I am also grateful that I have sick time every year and that I have not had to max it out in any year as of yet.  I am often told "USE IT! You only get to carry over so much!" but I am always so afraid that the big flare will come and I will need it that I only use it sparingly.  I would rather lose the hours that I can't carry over than need it.

I hope you have a LOVELY Wednesday.  Give thanks today for any small thing that you can find- it makes even a rough situation a little better! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Monday Friends!

It's a beautiful morning in my little world.  At daybreak it looked like it was going to storm but after I took Auggie for quick walk the skies started to part and the sun is now peeking through.  The excitement is that even though it's fairly humid this morning the extra Naproxyn I have been taking is kicking in and I can fit most of my rings and my regular shoes on!!!  I have to laugh that I got so excited about it.  I can't imagine my sisters getting so excited about such a little thing.  I think we just take such small things for granted until they are gone.

Speaking of getting excited, Auggie was super excited to go for a walk this morning.  I have to say, since we moved in last October I had gotten away from walking them/him.  We wanted a fenced yard so they could go out and run and play whenever they wanted and we got it.  For a few weeks after we lost Miss Harley in November, Auggie and I would take long walks just so we could "talk".  I would talk to him about how she was feeling better now that she was gone and how he would be okay.  I *think* it helped both of us with the grief.  Eventually I went into flare and that was the end of that. This weekend I realized that there's no reason not to take him at least for a quick walk in the morning and perhaps in the evenings.  He loves it and it would get me moving.  So I got up a half hour early and had some coffee then took him for a quick walk.  As soon as I picked up the leash he nearly lost it.  It was all I could do to keep him quiet and not wake up the husband.  He waited for me to put his harness on and then was dancing around like it was his job.  He was a little wild at first- which just shows I need to do it more often because he's forgotten his leash manners- but once he settled down we had a nice little walk.  We only went a few blocks but we will work back up to our milers.

That's all I have for you today.  I hope your Monday is a beautiful start to a good week.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Not Letting The Swelling Win.

     If you are anything like me, this time of year is a Catch-22.  I love the heat.  Let me say it again, I LOVE the heat- most of the time.  I love when it's hot out during the day.  I love to spend time out in the sun.  I am happy to eat out on my patio, to sit outside and read in shorts and a tank top, to feel the sun warming my joints.  The rub is that I can't sleep in it so even if we didn't have the pup to keep the house cool for, we would have to keep it cool at night for me and during the day for my opposite-shift-working husband.  Unfortunately, in Kentuckiana, along with the heat comes humidity that can be oppressive.  Now- most of me doesn't even mind the humidity, but my joints do.

     When the humidity rises it's an invitation for my entire body to swell.  It's like my body wants to draw that moisture in and keep it all for itself.  I mentioned when I took my day off that my shoe size ranges from a 6-9 (or more) due to swelling but my hands and wrists swell like balloons too.  So I end up with Flintstone feet and fingers like sausages.  It's not cute at all.  I mentioned that the feet burn when I use them.  The hands don't hurt much- they are just harder to use due to the swelling so typing is harder, gripping is harder- you get the idea.

     Now, I am a "ring girl".  I love, love, love rings.  As a rule I wear 8-10 rings at all times.  I wear my wedding ring and anniversary band on my left ring finger, a knuckle ring on that middle finger, thumb rings on both sides, and three rings that are important to me on my right ring finger.  When my hands swell- they hurt, a lot.  So- I have been removing them when they start to cut in so much that I need soap to get them off but that leaves me feeling...naked.  While I have accumulated most of the rings over the years, I have been wearing a wedding band for 30 years and though I have had to go up a size from the original- not having it on feels like I am missing a part of myself.

     Recently I gave myself permission to buy myself a "spare".  Just like I have shoes that are much larger than normal, I bought an inexpensive silver and glass wedding set to wear when I can't wear my real set.  It's pretty-ish ( I prefer 10k gold) and I know it's not the same but it's the symbol and I am not missing my rings as much.  When I bought my bigger shoes it was a decisive action because I was tired of only being able to fit into flip-flops with swollen feet.  These rings are just another work around so that I don't dwell when I swell.  Kind of a way to move past this side effect and keep going if you know what I mean.   I may not be able to beat the swelling, but I  don't have to let it win either.

    This is my question for you- what do you do to accommodate so you can keep feeling "normal" while your body is in a mini rebellion? Whether you swell like I do or if there is another reoccurring thing that happens due to your illnesses, what small things do you do to rise above it and keep living your life?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When Did my Life Become a Scout Song?

Head, shoulders, knees and toes,
Knees and toes.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes,
Knees and toes.

And eyes, and ears, and mouth,
And nose.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes,
Knees and toes.

Do you remember this song?  If you aren't sure- they sing it at the link.  It brings back memories from long, long ago but, ironically, it's apt today as well.  The way our pain travels when we are living with RA and Fibro, we can sing that song every day and apply it to a hurting body part.

I took yesterday off as a sick day.  My shoulder has been hurting for months now and my feet were so swollen on Tuesday morning that I couldn't get shoes all the way on. I ended up going to work with them stuffed in my shoes.   When they are swollen it burns to walk on them and stuffing them into shoes made it burn constantly.  Here's the thing though.  When all is normal- a size 6-6.5 shoe has more than enough room in it to accommodate a long day on my feet.  Lately the top of my foot has been swelling so much that when they are really bad I have to put on a 9 to be able to get them on.  Tuesday, even they were tight.  I just can't go bigger because I already feel like I am  a little kid wearing my parent's shoes when I have the 9s on.  Any bigger and I can pretty much guarantee I will trip.  So, because we are at a good place at work, I took the day to keep the feet up and try to get rid of the swelling a bit.  The plan was to stay home, in my jammies, in my recliner all day.  For the most part I stuck to plan.  I did have to get up and get dressed though because the collision center called and Wally ( my car) was fixed and ready to pick up.  Back in April I was side-swiped by an 18-wheeler and my insurance (Thanks USAA!) has been chasing the other driver's insurance for quite a while.  They finally just waived my deductible so I could get him fixed and he looks awesome.  More importantly, I have a passenger side mirror back.  I never realized how much I use it until it was gone. So I had to throw on clothes and a baseball cap, run the rental car back to Enterprise and then have them drive me to the collision center.  All told it took *maybe* a half hour once I was dressed and out the door.  I came home, made dinner and then soaked in the tub before bed.  Today, my feet are some better,  I don't have to put on the biggest shoes.  I am not quite back to my normal shoes but I will take it.

So today I am giving thanks that I could take a day off to rest, that I have my car back and that I have a job to go back to this morning.  I am also thankful that my little tomato, strawberry and mint plants are growing beautifully despite my black thumb.  Soon I will have a bounty from my own yard.  That just makes me smile.  Hope you have a lovely day friends!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Finding Motivation

One of the issues I have been having is weight gain.  I come home at night SO tired that moving is the last thing that I want to do and in the morning it takes hours for the stiffness to subside enough to even go to work.  It weighs on me (see what I did there?) both physically and mentally.  I have struggled with my weight and  my perception of my weight for as long as I can remember.

This is me circa 1983.

This is the first time I remember struggling with my weight.  I had curves.  My beautiful friends- not so much.  If I was an hourglass, they were lolly-pops.  I had a belly, they did not.  I had pronounced hips, they did not.   I remember thinking "Wow, I am SO fat" more than once.  Okay, more like every day.   It's when I started dieting for the first time.

  Looking at this next picture, I think Josh was about 10 so this is me around 1997. While I was STILL dieting off and on, I was fairly satisfied with where I was in my journey.

This next picture is when either my youngest sister graduated from college or my Dad retired.  It is my favorite picture of me. I am truly smiling in this picture.  I am thrilled to be with my family and I look confident because I felt good about myself.  I actually liked the way I looked for a change.

Finally, this is me now.       Now, full-length mirrors are my nemesis.  I am at the highest weight I have ever been.  I know where my downfalls are.  I eat well- most of the day- then evening hits and I graze out of boredom.  Where I used to work two jobs on my feet and run all day long, I am mostly desk-bound these days because of my health.  I used to walk the dogs every night.  Now I come home exhausted  and with swollen feet and Auggie gets let out into the fenced yard to do his running.  So my movement has gone from overdrive to slowing to a crawl.  I am peri-menopausal so my metabolism is slowing down.  I KNOW all of this.

I know that it's contributing to my pain and it must go but what I also know is that when I think about having to shed up to 100 lbs, it's overwhelming and feels like an impossible dream.

A few weeks ago I was pointed in the direction of a video that I will share here.  Warning- there is some "language" in here that, while I am not offended, may offend some if you don't like swear words.

This is Mike Vacanti.  Mike is a personal trainer.  First glance judgement was "Oh please.  This kid is 25-30 (I nailed it- he was 28 in this video) without an ounce of fat.  He won't get what I am going through".  I was wrong.  I am sorry Mike!  The video targets us in the older generation.  Though he's a trainer and when he trains he goes full bore- he says that it's okay to start small.  The important thing is that you start and stick with it.  That was a light-bulb moment for me.  It's OKAY to start small.  It does make a difference!  Wait- what?  Using something I have around the house instead of going to the gym counts? Doing 10 reps instead of multiple sets counts?  Walking around my cul-de-sac and then collapsing makes a difference?  A trainer not telling me to get on my stationary bike till I am ready to fall over?  Revolutionary.

Mike trains clients online.  While I am not at a place now where I can hire him,  if I could I would in a heartbeat because I think he would understand my physical challenges and work with them.  Mike's website is full of articles and videos.  He's a huge proponent of counting macro-nutrients.  I have downloaded his app and am learning about what they are and how to count them.  I love that he's so blunt.  I love that he's realistic.  I love that he's not focused on the usual gym-rats, instead he spreads his message to everyone.  It lit a spark in me that will hopefully turn into a flame.  If you are interested in more of his message, you can find him here and on Facebook and Snapchat.  

 I am heading dead-heading into 50.  I will be 49 in a few weeks.  My goal is to get moving and shed ( don't say "lose" because that implies you can find it again!) at least half of my excess weight before my 50th birthday.  That's only roughly a pound a week.  If I start small-but am consistent, that should be manageable.  Maybe, just maybe,  I can get back to the girl in the 3rd picture- just with more wrinkles.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Brain Fog

     If you are at all like me the brain fog that comes along with chronic illness can be INCREDIBLY frustrating.  In my case, when I am tired (which is most of the time) or stressed (also a lot) I lose my words.  As someone who has always been very well read, has a fairly extensive vocabulary and has always been very verbal, to struggle for the words that I need just makes me crazy.  It starts with being tired, then when it happens it stresses me out which compounds it and makes it harder to come up with what I am trying to say.

When I am fighting to remember that word-and it could be something as simple as the word "Red", or if I am at work a word that I use all of the time like "Schedule"- it takes me through a range of emotion.  First I am frustrated because I can almost SEE the word in my head. I can feel it sitting on my tongue but the brain is so foggy it just won't connect.  Then I am embarrassed because I can see the frustration in the face of the person to whom I am talking to wait for me to have the word click and it makes me feel stupid and no one likes to feel stupid in front of their loved ones or colleagues.  That leads to anger with myself and with whichever parts of my illness, be it the Fibromyalgia (more on Fibro Fog here) or the myriad of medications that I have to take every morning to function or that the pain and finding a way to compartmentalize it takes so much out of me.  It's not something I can control or even do anything to make it better.  Finally it's almost funny.  Not "funny" funny but more of a gallows humor funny.  I have to, have to, have to laugh about it because it's a coping mechanism.

I have discovered that if I can ask for a minute, then take a deep breath (or several) the words will eventually come to me.  Most people that are in constant contact with me know by now that this is an issue and for the most part they understand what's going on when it happens but it doesn't make it easier because while they realize why it's happening they don't get the struggle that's going on in my head.   That's hard for me.

I appreciate, on so many levels, that they try to understand. I appreciate their patience with me more than I can ever express.  I just don't have the patience with myself.  In researching this to see if there's a way to work around this I found an interesting article on Beliefnet sitting in my email.  Divine intervention?  Perhaps.  While I don't agree with all of it, there are some helpful hints for dealing with Brain Fog in there.  I am going to put it into practice slowly but surely and see how it goes.  I hope it helps you too!  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Breakthrough of Sorts

Hello Friends,

It's been a while again.  I hope this finds you well.  I have been staring at the "button" that I click to get to my blog for so many months now that it's become unacceptable. I look at it every morning and evening and even hover over it but then I think "I don't have much to say today" and move on to something else.   Part of it is that there's nothing exciting going on (which is good-I think) and part is that I don't want to start writing and have it turn into a gripe session.  I mean, I get tired of thinking about the pain, the swelling, the lack of mobility.  And if I get tired of just thinking about it, I certainly don't want to drag everyone else down with a gripe fest-especially since that flies in the face of why I started this blog.

It has been suggested to me more than once that it is possible that I may be going through a mild case of depression.  Of course, I always said "No WAY!".  I mean; I am functioning, I am "okay" most of the time and I recognize and am grateful for all of the blessings in my life.  I didn't see any way in wich i I am emotionally debilitated.   Then a friend pointed me to this article from Prevention magazine that contains this:

"Depression doesn’t always look like debilitating sadness," says Richard Kravitz, MD, MSPH, a professor of internal medicine at University of California, Davis, and an expert in identifying depression in primary-care settings. "Patients are reluctant to consider depression as a cause of their symptoms—in part because they may equate it with weakness, but also in part because they simply don’t associate those symptoms with depression." 

So I reluctantly read the article and discovered that I identify with 5-6 of the 9 symptoms.  It was a shocker! I honestly thought I was just caught up in the day to day but upon reflection, a lot of my day to day is on autopilot.  I give sufficient attention to do what I have to do and to ensure that it's done correctly but I am not my chipper, enthusiastic, overly motivated, perfectionist self and haven't been for a long while.  It kind of clicked that feeling "okay" is not the best I can hope for.  Not for nothing but I attribute it to-once again- my illnesses.

 I don't think I would have been as receptive of this had my gorgeous sister not gotten married last month.  We all flew out for the wedding and it was just beautiful.  Her new husband is an awesome guy and I can't imagine a better match for her.  The trip was smooth and hubby and I got to spend time with all of my sisters, the new hubby, Mom and Dad and our awesome niece and nephew.  It was very special.   Though it was a (very) short trip, it was filled with joy.  By now you may be thinking "okay- you went, you had a great time, where's the problem in that?"  While we were there, and on the way home, I found myself feeling a little...disconnected?  I got up early most mornings (as per usual) and walked to the 7-11 for coffee and then chilled out by myself enjoying the first cup till my youngest sister got moving and we could get together.  It was during one of those quiet moments that it hit me that I was feeling a step away from everything.  Though the family may not have noticed because there was SO much going on, I was just quieter than I normally would have been.   I realized during that morning downtime it was because I felt like I didn't have much to say.  I almost felt like, well, the only way I can explain it is as if I was there but I was watching things through a window.  And in looking through that window, I didn't even recognize myself, if that makes sense.  As these thoughts rolled around in my head, for the first time I could FEEL myself retreat.  I was pulling inward and I recognized that I do that a LOT lately. It's not that I wasn't enjoying myself.  I absolutely was. I was just a step back from the goings on.   It was disconcerting to say the least and from then on I made an effort to pull myself out of it.

It was shortly after I got back that depression was mentioned to me again (apparently I was doing the quiet thing) and the article pointed my way.  So- I don't know what I will do with this.  Those that know me *might* say that me being quiet and pulling back is a good thing. LOL.  OTOH, I will probably talk to my doctor about it at my appointment next month.  I don't want more medication but I do want to know what I can do to get back to feeling like myself.

For now, that's all I know!