Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Four Weeks and Counting- AKA #Overwhelmed

  Well, we are 7 weeks into school, 4 weeks in to Haunt season and work is work is work.  Add in PT appointments and hubby taking a second job and I am feeling #Overwhelmed.

Oh, I know- it's my own fault.  I have taken this on myself.  Work is always work.  The only thing that changes is how much payroll I have to work with.  Haunt season is, of course, my favorite time of the year, and I am the one who decided to go back and finish my degree.  Hubby- on the other hand, realizes that if he's going to be in a bowling league and hang out with his friends he needs to have disposable income so he took a part-time gig at Lowes, where he quite enjoyed working and would still be had it not been for the money.

Work, in most sectors these days but especially in retail, is very much about controlling expenses.  The easiest way to control expenses is through payroll.  The Catch-22 is that the work does not stop or lessen.  So we do more with less.  It's a strain, it's stress, it's just a lot.

School is actually rather enjoyable when we don't factor in my "other" role on campus.  I love learning, I love being in a classroom.  It's hard to balance that I am representative of the "Big Bad Bookstore" and being a regular student.   I have to listen to the complaints as to how awful it is that we charge SO much - when we don't set the prices and I spend hours and hours looking for the lowest price options.  It can be a strain to sit there and take it and not speak up.  However, eventually, the students forget and I am just another student.  After the students forget- the prof's don't necessarily do so.  I don't mind working closely with them to ensure that they have what they need.  I enjoy building the relationship, but I am still a student first in the classroom and would like to get rid of the distraction of being "the Bookstore Manager" when I am in class.

Haunt Season makes my heart happy.  I know it's silly.  I know it's...unusual.  But I get to be another person, I get to give people a thrill.  People come to haunted houses because they either want to be scared or someone drags them.  Either way, for just a few minutes, I add to their experience and it's SO much fun.  I don't have enough time to tell you all the stories but we get a lot of laughs.  It feeds the acting bug without having to give up my life to be an "actor" and I am allowed to have a lot of creative freedom and latitude.  Thankfully it's only 8 weeks of regular work because I am tired.  So, very tired.  Thankfully I have Sundays to rest up.

Jim taking on an extra job is not that big a deal.  It's exhausting for him but it's his choice.  The only reason it affects me is that I have more flexibility and we have the two dogs.  So that they are not stuck in the house alone all day, I have to go to work at 7am, take an hour for lunch and go home and let the pups out then head back to work and/or school Monday through Thursday.  On school days I am at work 7-4 (with my lunch) and then in class 4:15-7:15.  On the other two days, I am at work 7-6:30 or 7 with my lunch.  I do this so I can get out early on Friday to go to the haunt and because by Friday I am exhausted and need to nap.  It also allows me to book my appointments and such on Fridays and not mess up my regular schedule.  It just makes for very long days.

PT is...interesting.  The Spine doctor says that I have arthritis in 80% of my spine and that have 5 discs that are in bad shape.  The goal with PT is to get my loose enough to function.  Currently, we are using traction twice a week, ultrasound and trigger point massage.  The massage feels amazing.  The ultrasound feels good too.  Traction is not so fun- but it's making a difference.  My range of motion is better.  I only wish that I could have trigger point done every day.  We have another week or so of this then I will be on my own till I am back to the spine doctor.

All of this is manageable on their own but together I am a big ball of stress.  Four more weeks.  Then haunt season will be over (sad sigh) and I will be able to take back my weekends.  It will be both sad and a relief.  Until then, I plug on and on and make it through and make plans for a lot of self-care when it's over.

Hope you all are well.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Testing. 1..2..3..Testing

One of the less fun sides of both chronic illness AND ageing is all of the tests that we have to endure.  Most of us with RA have to have blood work routinely.  With Degenerative Disc and Rheumatoid Lung, it's X-rays/MRI's/ Breathing tests etc.

Then there's ageing.  I turned 50 last month which means that in addition to routine blood work, the always pleasant Mammogram, and "female" testing I was given the gift of a Colonoscopy.

This week has been rough.  I had an appointment on Sunday for a deep periodontal scaling -thanks lowered immune system!  I haven't had a cavity since the 90's but even with taking care of my teeth, my lowered immune system opens me up to periodontal infections.  I recently lost three back teeth due to this and we have to do whatever we can to keep the rest.

Tuesday I went to the Spine Center to follow up on the DDD.  The x-rays show "multilevel degenerative disc disease."  The C3-C7 show thinning, spurring and "subluxation" which essentially means that my neck is bending the opposite way that it should.  The last MRI in 2014 showed that two of those discs were bulging.  The lower back showed that the L4-S1 are thinning, have spurs and show signs of "Dextro scoliosis".  In addition, both areas have lots and lots of hereditary (thanks Gran!) arthritis with the L5-S1 looking like cotton candy instead of nice and crisp.  That explains a lot of the constant pain.  I don't want to add more meds and still refuse narcotics so we are being conservative.  That means it's back to PT for measurement for a cervical brace and dry needling and adding Lidocaine patches 12 hours a day.  In two months, I go back and if we haven't seen any improvement it will be another MRI, a lower back brace and on from there.
Tomorrow is the dreaded Colonoscopy.  This is my first and hopefully, I won't need one for a long time.  Also hopefully, the prep is worse than the test.  I am not going into the prep, I will just say that it's not fun.  Fortunately, I have the time needed to take today off for the prep and tomorrow off for the test.

Next week- it's back to the Rheumy for routine blood work.

As I sit here and reflect on this week and psych myself up for tomorrow I have to think about the medical costs.  I am so very grateful that Barnes & Noble Education takes good care of its employees in terms of the insurance it offers to us. I have a co-pay for visits, a reasonable deductible and then pay about 20% for the rest of the year.   Even with good insurance, those costs add up!  I just cannot imagine what someone who did not have insurance would have to pay out of pocket for all of these procedures and tests.  I completely understand how medical bills can bankrupt a family.  It makes me incredibly sad that in a nation such as ours, this can be allowed to happen.  But that's a post for another time.

Be well, my friends.  Be well and get whatever tests your doc feels is necessary.  Though they are expensive and time-consuming, they will help head off any nasty surprises.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Reclaiming Things I Surrendered To RA

     Over the years I can think of many, many things that I have given up to RA.  Exercise, good wine, being able to plan.... But this weekend I reclaimed something.  It was small but it felt like a victory.

 Growing up on Air Force bases, the Bowling Alley is often the hub of social activities.  We kids hung out there as teens, my MIL worked at one- you get the idea.  For many years my husband's family was a family of bowlers.  Marrying in, it was natural that I join the teams.  Though I enjoy bowling, I was never as hyper competitive as the in-laws so after years of bowling with them, I took a break for a few years then joined some friends for a "fun" league where I did exponentially better than with the pressure of serious competition.
Just about the time I was at my peak- I was diagnosed with RA.  My onset began in my hands and feet.  Feet that felt like I had run a marathon upon waking and hands that were in claws when I woke and ached all day meant that one of the first things that fell by the wayside was my fun league.

I haven't given a thought to even picking up a ball in a dozen years. That's not true.  I've thought about it- and immediately dismissed it because of my hands.  We even got rid of my Micky Mouse decorated ball and matching shoes when we moved out to So. IN 10 years ago.

Well- last week hubby came home from his bowling night and said to me "So- after haunt season you're going  to bowl with me on Friday nights."  I looked at him as if he had lost his mind and said "Oh AM I?  I haven't picked up a ball in years!"  He then sweetened the pot the next day.  "If you do, I will buy you this Patriot's bowling ball and gear"  I laughed because he knows my sweet spot and agreed to talk about it.  After considering it, I told him we would have to give it a shot because between the RA and the acrylics I pay good money for (Vanity- thy name is woman!) I didn't know if I could do it.  We contacted my dad because he enjoys a good game and agreed to go this past weekend.

And so we did.  I wasn't great.  The old back doesn't allow me to move the way I did when I was bowling regularly and I was very hesitant- but I broke 100 so I was pleased.  Hubby looked at Dad after my first strike and said "Guess I am buying a ball!"  We only bowled one game because a group of people with ZERO etiquette was put on the lane next to us and essentially crowded us out so we will have to go again and bowl three games as if a normal league play so I can see if I can do it, but I enjoyed it and am considering his request.

So take THAT RA!  You don't necessarily get to keep the things you took from me! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

50 for my 50th.

Today is my 50th birthday.  Today I am reflecting on my life, my goals, my bucket-list.  As part of my reflection, I have made 5 lists of 10 things that are on my mind.

Ten things I am grateful for in the big picture:

1-  I am grateful that I have a wonderful, loving family.  Parents, sisters, husband, my loving child, nieces, nephews and friends.  Family of my blood and heart- all of whom are terrific people.

2-  I am grateful that I have a good job that affords me health insurance and a decent living, good benefits and that, for the most part, I enjoy.

3-  I am grateful that I have two sweet, smart pups who love me unconditionally as much as I love them.  They are truly emotional support.

4-  I am grateful that I have a home to live in, with heat, air conditioning, clean water, a good bed, and  comfortable furniture that I can afford to pay for and that is safe and sound.

5-  I am grateful that my health has held out longer than initially expected.  The first Rheumatologist that I saw was sure that if we were not very aggressive in my treatment I would be in a wheelchair by 45.  Despite failing all of my treatments so far- I am still holding out and holding on.

6-  I am grateful that I have a love of books.  Books can not only educate you but take you to new worlds, open you up to new interests and shift your world view.

7-  I am grateful that I can afford food.  Not just to nourish my body but also to indulge my joy of cooking.  Experimenting in the kitchen, finding new flavor combinations or ways to manipulate those flavors into something that is delicious is incredibly satisfying.  Especially when someone you love enjoys what you produce.

8-  I am grateful that I have my quiet mornings.  While I could not get up and immediately get ready to go to work like a normal person, it's lead to my quiet mornings.  As part of my "new normal" I get up, have some coffee, see the sun come up, watch the news or something on the DVR and ease into the day.  Even on vacation I was normally the first up and managed a cup of coffee or two either alone or with my sister before things got hectic.  It just helps me start my day in a good head-space.

9-  I am grateful that I began this journey.  Even when I fall off for a while, I can go back and read what I have written and be right back on the road to living from gratitude.

10- I am grateful that we made the move to the mid-south 10 years ago.  I cannot imagine my life had we stayed in New England.  It would be so very different.

Ten things I know for sure:

1-  I know that living with chronic illness may not be something I would choose but not suffering from it IS my choice.

2-  I know that the idea of forgiveness is much easier than actually letting go of hurts.

3-  I know that taking weight of is exponentially harder than putting it on.

4-  I know that finding something that you love to do, no matter what it is and how many people roll their eyes at you about doing it, can bring you vast amounts of joy.

5-  I know that Random Acts of Kindness not only make you and the recipient feel good in the moment, but can also make you want to do more and more. They can be a love drug if you let them.

6-  I know that there are people who, no matter how much you do for them, always expect you to give and give without so much as a sincere thanks- and that's not your fault.

8-  I know that it's not only okay but healthy for your overall well-being to remove those toxic people from your life.

9-  I know that we can learn about love and compassion from our animals.

10- I know that we need to take care of ourselves mentally and emotionally if we wish to live happy lives.  

Ten things I just don't understand:

1-  I don't understand "isms"- Racism, Ageism, Sexism, Classism,  Lookism, Sizeism, Ableism, Nativism.  It makes no sense to me to judge people just by how they look or where they are from.

2-  I don't understand labeling.  I am a Gen X'er.  I am a Mom. I am Straight.  I am a Wife. I am Caucasian.  I am Female.  I am a Moderate Independent.  I am somewhat Disabled.  I am so many different labels- yet not one of them defines me.  I am more than each and every one of these labels and an amalgamation of them all.  Aren't you more than each of your many labels?

3-  I don't understand how people can harm those who are defenseless- children, animals, the infirm.  What has to be going on in their heads?

4-  I don't understand being hateful to perfect strangers online.  If you wouldn't say it face to face, how is it okay to say it online?

5-  I don't understand dividing our wonderful country by party lines.  Democrat and Republican are not epithets.  Neither are Liberal or Conservative.  Why are we not working for the good of ALL of the country- not just the party that we identify with?  What is best for our country is a sound economy, safe infrastructure, ecologically sound utilities, equal access to quality healthcare for all, and leading the world in research and technology.  It is to follow our founders when they said " We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"  The rest of the stuff- who you worship, your race, your sexuality, your gender, your family makeup- not the business of the country.  

6-  I don't understand people who believe that rules and policies don't apply to them and will throw a fit if they don't get their way.

7-  I don't understand people who think that it's okay to make a "career" of stealing from others rather than working for what they want. Do they not get that the person they are stealing from did just that?

8-  I don't understand how an argument, a territory dispute, road rage can be worth taking a life.  Every day the news is filled with murder, shootings, stabbings and more.  Life is worth so much more- when did we become disposable?

9-  I don't understand higher Math and the Sciences.  STEM is not the way my brain works-and when it comes down to it, it makes me kind of dumb in those areas.   I am more creative but that being said- smarter minds thank mine are tasked with math and science, and I trust them in their fields.

10- I don't understand a lack of work ethic.  If someone is paying me to do a job- be it sweeping a floor, cleaning a toilet or running a multinational company, I am going to do my best.  I am going to take pride in the job I am doing and be the best floor sweeper/toilet cleaner/CEO that I can be.  I don't understand how people can take a paycheck and just show up.

Ten things I still want to do in my next decade:

1-  I will complete my education.  I am starting back with my first class next week.

2-  I will shed the weight that I need to lose.  It's a work in progress.

3-  I will still fight my body against my disabilities.  Even if it means just a walk around the block, as long as I am able to move, my illnesses don't win.

4-  I will write for publication.  Fiction, non, magazine articles, news- nothing can stop me from writing.

5-  I will journal to leave a legacy for my child and grandchildren.

6-  I will expand my horizons.  I will continue to try new hobbies and test my interests to see what sticks.

7-  I will go horseback riding when I am NOT on vacation.

8-  I will create multiple new haunt characters.

9-  I will continue to be an advocate and ally for those who need my voice.

10- I will learn to say no when I need to take time to be good to myself.

Ten things on my Bucket List:  

1-  I dream of spending 4-6 weeks in Europe

2-  I dream of chartering a yacht in the Mediterranean for a week or so.

3-  I dream of seeing the rest of the US.

4-  I dream of Winters where it's warm, Summers where it's less warm.

5-  I dream of writing a book that touches someone the way so many books that I love have touched me.

6-  I dream of walking another marathon.

7-  I dream of contributing to animal rescue in a significant way.

8-  I dream of  going on a photographic safari.

9-  I dream of swimming with dolphins.

10- I dream of contributing to my world in a way that will be remembered.  Not me- but the contribution.

Today, though just another day for most, I begin a new journey.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day Reflections

I have said it before and I will say it again.  I am so, so very blessed to have the parents that I do.  I am very aware of it and I give thanks for them often.  Being a military family is somewhat unusual.  Most will never know what it's like to pick up and move every other year, to spend year(s) away from your family on "Temporary" duty or remote assignment while supporting your family on very little money and a whole lot of ingenuity.  This, of course, was in the days before the internet, before email, before skype or cell phones.  It was the days of keeping up with the family through crackly phone calls during an allotted time because it cost so very much and snail mail.  But here's the thing:  Mom and Dad never made it seem stressful.  They always sold it as an adventure.  We never knew how much they struggled financially- the made it work.  We never knew how much strain all of the politics (and if you think the military is bad- you should see the Wive's Club!) caused.  We never knew how crazy we made them.  They handled military life and raising children with so much grace that we could all only hope to be as good of people as they are.  They have supported us girls in all of our decisions- good and bad, and after 55 years together they are still crazy about one another.  They set the bar high on how to conduct yourself in all areas of life.

So today, on this Father's day- I share them with you.  I love you Mama and Daddy.  Thank you for my sisters, thank you for being role models and thank you for teaching us to be open, loving people.

Monday, May 8, 2017

We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

I was going to title this "If it's not one thing, it's another" but that sounds more complain-y (yes, I made that up-lol) and I don't want it to sound like that. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am sore, but there is nothing unusual about those things.  I was just looking over my calendar for the week and realized how much I burn the candle at both ends (voluntarily) and how little I take time to take care of my self.  That was made very apparent these past few months.

When Jim asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him -among several ideas-that I wanted a gift certificate for a massage.  He trekked up to the local Therapeutic Massage clinic that I like and bought me an hour.  When I opened my lock-box to put the gift certificate away, I found another gift certificate that I had received years ago that was long expired.  I contacted the clinic and they offered me half credit for it as long as I booked the appointment right away.  I went for that massage and while it was divine and I had a significant increase in range of motion,  it kicked off the "bruised" feeling of a Fibro flare due to how hard she had to work to get the knots out of my neck and shoulders.  That pain has subsided over the last two more visits but I know that it's my own fault.    I have always carried my stress in my neck and shoulders and it showed that I haven't been in for a massage in far too long.  As I lay there on the table, in the quiet, as she worked the knots on my knots on my knots out, all I could think was "You REALLY need to take better care of yourself!" When I went for the second and third appointments- we slowly got most of the heavy knots out but each visit is a reminder that I need more than just down time at home to recuperate.

Currently I work, I go home, I cook, I snuggle with the pups, do housework, repeat.  I try to cook good meals but when I am overly tired I fall back on less healthy options.  I don't make it a point to take care of myself the way I need to.  In the Fall, I will be adding even more to my plate.  In addition to an even earlier Haunt season (we start prep in August!) I have also registered to go back to school and finish my degree.  I am easing back in- taking one class I am dreading- Speech- and one I am really looking forward to-Stage Makeup- but it means that I will be in class from 4:15-5:30 and 6-7:15 on Mondays and Wednesdays on top of my regular schedule.  Then, we add back-to-school Rush at work and then haunt season and that means that from August to November I will be crazy busy.

As I sit here, at the beginning of May, Commencement is tomorrow, we start the first Summer Session Tuesday and after this week, things will settle down.  That means that it is the prime time to start making positive changes.  Step by step, if I get in some new good habits, I have time for them to become ingrained before things get crazy again.  First things first- I always, always get up at 4:30am.  The husband goes to work at 6.  I am hoping I can get him to get up a bit earlier so he can stay home with Fenway and I can take Auggie for a walk in the morning.  She tends to freak out a bit when he goes anywhere without her and she HATES the leash so I want Jim to hang out with her so she's fine while we are gone and Auggie and I can get a good walk in.  If not, I guess we will ease into our walks-start small and go a little further each time so she gets used to it.  Auggie will be thrilled- this I do know.  He loves his walks and won't mind the break from his over-enthusiastic little sister.  Next goal- dinner!

It's time that I stop getting so caught up in the day to day that I neglect myself in the process.  It's time that I start treating myself like I would someone that I care about.  it's time that I be good to myself.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Questions, questions...

I am subscribed to a newsletter for a planner that I bought last year.  At the end of the year, they sent me a questionnaire to help me reflect on 2016 and what changes I want to make for 2017.  The blog post can be found here if you want to take a peek.

Rather than doing all of them at once, I have been spending time thinking about each one as it applies to me. Today's question is:  What goals do I have regarding family, love and friends in 2017?

I have said it before and I will say it again- I am so, so very blessed to have the family that I do.  I have wonderful parents who model every day what a successful marriage is supposed to look like.  I have two lovely, successful biological sisters that I truly enjoy and a third who is a sister of our heart.  Each of them has provided me with smart, sweet nieces and nephews that, despite some not-so-great choices, are really good kids.  The same could be said of my son.  Smart, sweet and loving.  I am so proud of the man he's become and I love the family he's chosen to make his own.  By falling in love with Christina (who is a lovely, smart, strong woman in her own right) he is giving me two beautiful grandchildren.  Do you detect a theme about my family?  We are all very, very different women but we genuinely like one another and our family.  The glitch is that we are so spread out.  Indiana, California, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Oklahoma.  We are all over the country and that makes it hard.

My friends are much the same.  I have some terrific people in my life all over the country.  The problem is- connecting with them as they are everywhere and those that are here are all on different schedules.  It was much easier when you are in school and are together every day.  Now we are grown ups, with our own lives and our own things going on.  It makes staying close more difficult.

So my goal is to reach out.  There are some people who I really NEED to reach out and reconnect with because I miss them.  They aren't active on social media, so it will take a phone call or a card- but I am good at cards!  I am NOT good at birthdays and anniversaries so I send my grand-kids, nieces and nephews and some friends random cards throughout the year just to let them know I am thinking of them.  My goal is to add friends and other family members to the list and really make an effort to let them know when I am thinking about them.  I mean- who doesn't like to get mail that is not a bill?  Hopefully it will be a nice surprise.  I think it will be a positive for all of us and will remind me when I do the deed how grateful I am to have them in my life.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Out With The Old/In With The New


I discovered this year, my 49th in this world, that I just don't understand people at all.  Here are a few of the things I don't understand:

I don't understand berating strangers, in person or online.
I don't understand destroying property- not your own but especially that which belongs to others
I don't understand physically harming another person.
I don't understand when life became disposable.
I don't understand the inability to look beyond political parties to see what makes the whole of a person.
I don't understand name-calling.
I don't understand hate.  Period.

This year-2016- has been the most hate-filled of my memory.  I was born at the tail-end of the Civil Rights Era and I honestly feel we have regressed.  This year we have seen very vocal and very violent hate based on religion, gender, race, who you love, who you vote for, whether or not you believe in gun regulation, - pretty much anything you can imagine and I just don't get it.  Maybe that makes me naive, but I feel that it makes me happier than living with hate in my heart.  It's certainly more peaceful than being angry all of the time.


This year I have not made resolutions.  I have instead decided to adopt two keywords for 2017:




If I can live with those two little words first and foremost in my heart for 2017.  It will be a stellar year.  

Happy New Year Friends...