Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Fun and Relaxing Visit with My Mom

Last Thursday my mom, JoVeta, came to visit us. This was the first time in the history of visitors that I did not go to any extra effort to clean our house before a visit. It was quite liberating and seemed to set the stage for a relaxing visit.

My mom brought me a surprise! A Sign Chi Do DVD that we tried out together. She is lucky enough to know the founder of this method of stress management and has participated in her workshop.

Knowing the kids were safe with Grandma, Steve and I went out for a date night to hear Jim Gaffigan. We had a great time. The next night we introduced Mom to Gaffigan by renting his Beyond the Pale DVD. She loved it. The greatest thing about Gaffigan is your kids will love him too.

We spent a lot of time at our computers. You might think that isn't a good way to visit but we learned a lot about what the other reads online. Also, Sophia and I introduced mom to blogs. She now has her own blog about Kansas Parish Nursing and Three Trees! (Please ignore the messy table)

Mom treated us to some dinners out! In this picture we are at Flat Top Grill. Not only is the food great, but they have menus for all different types of food allergies so it was easy to get a delicious gluten/dairy free meal.

And we visited Joe (my nephew) and Ashley's new apartment in Logan Square (Chicago).

From their house we walked to dinner.

And enjoyed a cool summer evening meal outdoors.

We also enjoyed gelato at our local Traviata's.

My mom likes to visit during the summer when Naperville and The American Red Cross sponsor art created by local artists. Each year is a different theme and is displayed throughout the downtown area. After Labor Day, the art is auctioned off and the proceeds go to The American Red Cross. This year is frogs and dragonflies.

Finally, while the boys went out for their weekly Sunday morning alone time....

Sophia and I treated mom to breakfast......

and a pedicure. Sophia decided she needed her hair up and we both needed to wear aprons so we looked more professional.

This is our second time of giving mom a pedicure. This time Sophia found some great spa music, we bought some new nail painting supplies and a stone to scrub dry heels. I must admit, we did a good job!

The finished product.....

As always, we love mom to visit and had a great time!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Natural Hair Update

I am now at 20 weeks without any artificial hair coloring and I love it! When you color your hair and the first strands of natural hairs start popping out at your scalp, it can be quite frightening. It looks like every strand of hair is going to age you 20+ years. However, if you are patient and open minded to what can occur, it really isn't that bad. Some of the gray strands have already started taking on a life of their own, going every which way, but that is just part of the deal. Overall, the transition hasn't been that tragic. My natural hair is coming in darker than the colored with gray highlights that personally, I kind of like. I like seeing my hair as it is naturally and knowing that I am living by my own expectations.

The Simplest Things in Life

Louise Hay's daily affirmation for today is I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life.. I thought it would be fun to share some of the simplest things in life that I enjoyed today:

~Laying in the dark at three in the morning discussing life with my husband.

~Izzy rolling over at 3:30 AM for a little rub on her tummy since I was awake anyhow.

~Enjoying a second cup of hot green tea at 6AM while the house was still mostly dark and quiet.

~Remembering how when I took Sophia clothes shopping yesterday she said, "Thank you Momma. I feel so spoiled." (1 clearance dress, 1 clearance shirt, a pair of 40% off jeans and a 40% off sweater that she offered to buy herself) I have the sweetest girl!

~Wearing my new pajamas to bed last night and waking up happy with my purchase. I love comfy pajamas!

~Steve joining us at the farmer's market today and saying, "Once you get our age, this is where all the hot chicks hang out."

~The toddler behind our house was crying this morning as I walked by their house. It reminded me of my own babies and how soothed they would be with gentle words and momma's breast.

~Alexander bought jeans for the first time. He hasn't worn jeans since he was about a year old.

~Sophia wrote a beautiful story last night to submit to American Girl. I was really touched by it. It made me cry.

~Fresh peaches from the farmers market.

~Bike ride to the swimming pool with Alexander and Sophia

~A neighbor friend came over this evening to set up a date to teach Sophia Japanese. When I asked if I can pay her, she said, "NO."

~Feeling good again today! Something I am doing is working right.

What are some simple things in life you have enjoyed lately?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inspiration of A Stranger

Update:   I originally published this post on 8/27/08, back when I was struggling with my symptoms of RA.  Today, life is different for me.  Physically, I am very capable.  Yet, this woman remains an inspiration to me.  Last week, while I was out walking with my border collie, two men were sitting on her porch.  This is normal.   They sit there almost every evening and always say "hello" to me.  On this particular evening I decided to stop and talk.  Their story is amazing.  A Greek family that came here knowing absolutely no English, worked their way up to owning a chain of family restaurants, and now have children who are doctors, lawyers, and accountants.  The woman pictured below still knows very little English but the more I learned about her from her sons (three live in our neighborhood), the more inspirational she became to me.  She is 90 years old.  She has had some health issues of her own, but still gets out and walks from one son's house to the next.  She also maintains two gardens at different homes.  Her sons said she is the "boss" of the family and has always eaten lots of vegetables and fish, little sugar.   Good to know!  So happy I finally stopped and learned more about this interesting family and also happy to finally share that their mother has been my inspiration all of these years.  

I have never said more than "Good morning" to this elderly woman and I imagine that she would be surprised to learn that she is one of the inspirational people in my life.

My husband has joked about names for her: Moving Snowman (she looks like a snowman in the winter all bundled and barely moving), Spooky Chick,Scary Lady,Car Target, and then, Happy Car Target when I remind him that she is an inspiration to me.

Why does she inspire me? Each and every day, warm or cold, this elderly lady and her walker make a complete (1/2 mile maybe) circle around our neighborhood. On my worst rheumatoid arthritis days, I would look out the window and I just felt motivated and happy seeing her. She moves at a snail's pace, but I love that she gets out and does something every day. This lady motivates me to move, even on my worst days. (Just a happy reminder that I haven't had many bad days in quite some time!!!!)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jim Gaffigan in Chicago and We Saw Him!

I have never listened to a comedian that made me laugh from start to finish until I heard Jim Gaffigan the first time a few years back. He is absolutely hilarious. So, when we found out he was coming to Chicago, we of course bought tickets.

What we didn't intend on doing was standing in line for over an hour to buy a $10 poster and have it signed, or to have our picture taken, but somehow, that is exactly what happened.

After a terrific show, we left the theatre to see a long line of people waiting to meet Jim Gaffigan personally. We thought, "Well, let's just stand here until he comes out and get a good look at him close up." Unfortunately for us, the staff at the theatre informed us we either needed to get in line or leave. So, our next idea was to get in the back of the line and as the line started moving, we would leave, as if we didn't want to wait that long and then we would see him as we walked out. So, we waited. And as we waited, we felt the excitement of waiting in line to see not only someone famous, but someone that has brought an unusual amount of laughter into our lives.

As we waited, we became second to last in line as two gentlemen wearing "Hot Pocket" shirts (Jim does a great bit on Hot Pockets) rejoined the line when they discovered the picture they had taken with Gaffigan had turned out blurry. Seeing us without a camera, one of the two graciously asked if we wanted them to take our picture and email it to us. Of course we did! The best thing is, he took it and really sent it. Thanks Brian!

Enjoy this bit on cake.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Holy Cow! Not Potato Chips and M&M's In Their Diets!

In my quest to not only rid my body of rheumatoid arthritis, but to live a healthier lifestyle, I have read numerous horror stories about the food industry. Still, when I see videos like this one, where factory cows are now being subjected to diets of not only corn, which they are not intended to eat, but also potato chips and chocolate because of the rising cost of corn, it truly amazes me.

For the last three years or more, my family and I have owned shares in a food cooperative. We are able to obtain all of our meat (chicken, beef, pork, lamb), eggs and milk from a group of farmers who raise their animals on pasture, making sure they are free to roam and eat what nature intended them to eat. Is it more expensive? Definitely. Is it worth it? You bet. I feel it is important to feed my family and friends the foods intended for our bodies and to eliminate the artificial colors/flavors, preservatives, hormones, etc in our diet as much as possible. I believe our family dog has every right to live a life on food she was intended to eat and therefore provide her with a varied homemade diet of meat, organs, bone, and veggies/fruits. I also believe that each of the animals that provide food for us deserve to live a life on good food, sunlight and movement.

The way that I eat and the foods I provide has become more of a spiritual journey for me than it ever was in the past. I now see how we are all connected to each other and the earth that provides for us. To expect the cows that I am eating to live on a diet of processed food and foods they are not intended to eat, is not going to make me healthier. Plus, it is just not the right thing to do to any living creature.

If you would like to learn more, please check out these sites: This is a great informational site on grass food facts Although these videos are very educational, they can be disturbing. A good friend of mine introduced me to this site and this is where a lot of my food practices changed. This site is a great place to find local resources for meat, eggs, milk, and vegetables.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Da Luciano's Gluten Free Meals and Desserts Go Online!

When I went gluten free four years ago for my rheumatoid arthritis, I was given strict instructions not to ingest any wheat, rye or barley, even in the tiniest amounts. This limited my restaurant choices to almost nothing. When you are avoiding all gluten, you pretty much have to find restaurants that understand that your meal cannot contain any gluten in the preparation. People are surprised to find out that even ingredients like soy sauce often contain wheat.

I think I was in my second year of being gluten free when we discovered Da Luciano's. It is about a forty-forty five minute drive for us and we went for my birthday. This family owned Italian restaurant is small and always full. When you ask for a gluten free menu, the manager comes to your table to meet you. She has you sign her gluten free book which has names from all over the United States. After feeling like a freak pretty much everywhere you eat, it is fabulous to have a sense of being some place that really understands you.

The best part of the experience at Da Luciano's however, is when you open the menu. It isn't one or two meals that are often presented at restaurants with a gluten free menu, but here you have a full menu. You can choose from pizza, pasta, lasagna, chicken parmigiana, etc. And there are desserts. Beautiful, beautiful desserts! Although I am a wine drinker, I believe they also even carry gluten free beer! Okay, so the first time we went, I cried when I opened the menu and saw so many choices. It was the most beautiful thing ever!

Anyhow,yesterday I opened my mail and there was a nice letter from Da Luciano's sharing their great news that they now have a gluten free online shop. So, if you can't make it to Chicago for a special night out and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere and people at Da Luciano's, now you can order ahead and have a fabulous gluten free meal at home!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lesson on "Living in the Moment" from My Husband

This spring and summer we have been fortunate to have many visitors. We hosted homeschooling author David Albert in April, my nephew Joe and his new bride Ashley graduated from college which brought my oldest brother and his family in May, my sister Stacey and her two boys were here for a week in June with an overnight visit from my niece Emily and her husband Andrew, and in August my mother in law Sheryl stayed a week and then my niece Alexis and her boyfriend Jake came for the weekend with their one year old Anthony.

With each visitor, I have been more and more impressed with my husband Steve. As part of my recovery of rheumatoid arthritis, I am trying to live more in the moment, ask for help and let worries go. Generally when visitors are coming, I am always worried about what we are going to eat and whether or not the house is clean enough while Steve stays in a very relaxed mode. He helps if I ask, but otherwise, continues with life as usual. What I realized this spring and summer with all of our visitors though, is that my very own spouse is doing what I am achieving to do - "Living in the Moment" with those that are most precious to me. Below are some highlights of Alexis, Jake and Anthony's visit showing exactly what impresses me most about Steve when we have visitors.

Steve takes an active role in hosting. Besides keeping conversations flowing, he spends quality time with our guests. When our niece Lexie was visiting over the weekend with her baby Anthony and boyfriend Jake, Steve happily played with Anthony.

He gave Anthony's parents a break (17 hours on the Amtrak) and pulled the wagon on a walk through the neighborhood.

Steve seems to want each visitor to enjoy all the splendor that Chicago has to offer. He happily plans out all day excursions. While I am always thinking, "How much are we going to spend?" Steve appears to be thinking, "They aren't here everyday so let's have fun." And you know what? The money always works out in the end.

Rather than walking to Michigan Ave, Steve suggested we take a water taxis, which our family had never tried either and it was perfect for seeing all the buildings in Chicago.

When my niece thought she lost her phone, Steve walked all the way back to the water taxi, waited for the taxi to return and searched for the phone while we continued on to Millennium Park. (Steve had the camera so I didn't get any good pictures of us at Millennium Park)

Steve also goes out of his way to make sure guests know which flight/train to get on and always helps with luggage.

I have always known that I am fortunate to have a husband that cares so much for the kids and me, but recently I have enjoyed being more aware of how he is able to care for others. As I am trying to "let go" of unnecessary stresses in my life, I like watching how he just enjoys life rather than worrying about all of the "unnecessaries". Each time we go out and do things as a family or with visitors, he makes life fun. I really admire that about him.

Oh, and not to be forgotten, my mom JoVeta will be visiting on Thursday!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cateepoo is Making a Comeback!

It has been over four years ago now that I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and almost six months ago since I went off medication completely. I wouldn't say one time period has been easier than the other, but since July 11Th when Sophia started charting how I feel each day, life has been pretty good to me. I am even back to being the primary dog walker! I have had a few days here and there with swelling and stiffness in the joints, but overall, I am starting to feel like Cateepoo again. This journey to wellness has taken longer than I had hoped and more work, but as every alternative person I have seen has reminded me, "It took you years to get to this point, so don't expect it to disappear overnight." Along this journey of healing, I have met wonderful people and tried methods I never even knew existed.

Naturopathic Medicine: With the help of my naturopath I have been on a gluten/dairy free diet for almost four years. My first experiences with vitamins, herbs and homeopathy were with my naturopath. She encourages me to have control over my RA which is very empowering. Every time I leave her office I feel ready to take on the world. With her help I was able to reduce all my medications, get my inflammation rates to a normal level and, until I went off my medications, to live a life pretty much in remission.
Acupuncture: I have used this method to help relieve some of the pain during flare-ups.
Chiropractor: My chiropractor uses meridian stress assessment to find weaknesses in my body and then muscle testing to figure out the best herbs and homeopathy to use.
Orthobionomy: A friend performed this on me once before moving away. I would definitely try it again.
Diffusion (a form of kinesiology):This is a powerful way of dealing with stress in your life without having to talk in detail about it. The most important thing I learned from this practitioner, is that once I own the illness, I have a responsibility to it and the pain. Wow! Easy to say, difficult to let go of after four years.
NST: I am working on this right now with great results. This practitioner is balancing out the nerves and muscles to reduce the pain in my body.
Metaphysics: I am reading a lot of Louise Hay books and LOVE how she gives you the control over your illnesses and other events that occur in your life. I recommend her books to everyone!

I don't know that I can say that any one of these methods has worked better for me than another one. I know that I have made connections with some of the practitioners that encourage me more so than others to take an active part in my healing and I would say that is probably the most helpful. But overall, I believe it is a combination of methods that has brought me to where I am today. I know I still have work to do, but it feels good to feel like I can start planning my life again without worrying about not being able to get out of bed. And, best of all, I am doing it totally medication free! This has been a huge goal of mine and it feels wonderful to see the work paying off.

I appreciate all the prayers, healthy thoughts, and phone calls/emails to check on me. I have never felt so cared for and loved. This is one thing I can say has helped motivate me to continue on this journey.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hard Rock Cafe Chicago

We have lived in the Chicago area for nine years now. In that time, we have enjoyed many visitors and multiple trips to many of the same tourist attractions in the city. Each time the experience is fun because we are seeing it through the eyes of our visitor who is seeing it for the first time.

My mother in law, Sheryl, drove home with us from Kansas last week and spent the week getting to know the daily life of my family. On Saturday, we decided to head downtown for lunch. We decided on The Hard Rock Cafe, which surprisingly, none of us have ever been too. It was a fun, relaxed trip. We pulled up to Hard Rock with the intention of Steve dropping us off and then searching for parking. However, valet was only $12 compared to the $20-25 we expected to pay, so we went for it. It was awesome to just park and walk right in. That has never happened to us in Chicago.

Once we sat down and the waiter came over and enthusiastically told us about all the drinks and the Hard Rock shop, we acted like we were tourists ourselves and would never have the chance to return to Hard Rock. We took pictures, purchased fancy drinks in souvenir glasses and even purchased items from the gift shop! We spent a lot of unnecessary money, but it was fun to just relax and be the tourist who takes in all the fun!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Rich and Full Life

All my experiences are part of the richness and fullness of my life. - Louise Hay website
As a forty year old woman, I have had many experiences that have made me the person I am today - someone that I really like. I feel like I am always evolving, yet I have core values that have stayed with me for longer than I can remember. I feel like I have been fortunate in the fact that my life has always been fairly easy and for the most part, I accept the times that weren't easy as experiences that have made me stronger.

After visiting my extended family in Kansas for three days, I was reminded of how each family member (parents, siblings, nieces, nephews) has contributed to the rich and full life I am fortunate enough to experience.

Kansas has the most beautiful skies. Whenever we are driving in, I am always blown away by how beautiful they really are.

Great minds think alike. Stacey and I both cut our hair short within a day of each other.

Dad and Carol always welcome us into their house. They both gave us instructions on WiiFit.

My older brother Mike and his family have always been an inspiration to me. Together they put together a beautiful rehearsal dinner at their home.

My mom who always makes a special effort to keep in touch with the interests of my family.

My two special guys!

My pretty girl who enjoyed every minute of being a flower girl!

My college professor who out of the blue showed up at the wedding just to see me!

"The girls". The three of us were always known as "the girls". We are the three youngest of six.

My nephew Joe who moved to Illinois four years ago and now makes his home here. The look on his face as he waited for his bride brought tears to my eyes. To feel so much love for one person is an amazing thing - something I am glad I still feel for my love of 20 years. Also, I love this picture because of the support from his parents that Joe was receivng right when he needed it.

My friends and family have given me numerous rich and full experiences. Thanks so much to everyone for making me who I am today!

PS - We missed Sherry and family at the wedding. Please know that you were all thought of throughout the day as you are everyday!