Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Simplest Things

"I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life."- Louise Hay

Yesterday while the kids were at a friend's house, I not only picked up a new phone for myself, but met Steve for a lunch date. After working in the city for several years, he is now within four miles of home so we have been taking advantage of little moments like this to sneak in some alone time together. I like it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Situation at Work

Tuesday night I started back to work with a new group of ESL (English as a Second Language) students. They are a delightful group of people with a variety of personalities and I could tell from the first night that the energy is good. The next eight weeks should be enjoyable.

When I taught 5th grade years ago, I worked in an elementary school with a large number of limited English proficient students so I was constantly team teaching with reading specialists or Spanish translators. I became accustomed to having a peer in the classroom with me and really enjoyed it. However, in the last seven years of teaching adults, I have been solo. That changed on Tuesday night. I will have a new experience this quad. I am going to be working with a sign language interrupter for one of my students from Thailand. This student is not only learning English but she is also learning American sign language. I guess I never thought of sign language being different around the world. Isn't that interesting?

RA Update

I have been seeing the new chiropractor for a month now and I am feeling great results!!! We have discussed continuing on a gluten/dairy free diet and watching other inflammatory foods, especially sugar. He also recommended that for now I avoid all raw foods and instead concentrate on cooked foods and a daily dose of broth made from bone. He feels like my joints do not like the cold and I need to warm them up with cooked foods. I felt a sense of relief when he gave me these instructions because my body has only been craving warm, cooked foods. Sometimes I feel like I should be adding a salad to a meal, but my body just doesn't want to do it. He said instead to eat lots of steamed veggies. I should have known that when I listen, my body always leads me in the right direction.

I have been dignosed with rheumatoid arthritis for five years now and I have never had anyone tell me I need to do some rehabilitation work until now. It's funny because that is exactly what I thought would happen at my first appointment with the rheumatologist. I sadly learned that he was only my drug dealer and did no other work to heal my body. The chiropractor has me doing some exercises everyday for my knee and middle finger. He noticed that I just don't use the middle finger anymore and it needs some circulation and a reminder that it has a job to do. He does several manipulations at my visits and correlates sore spots on my body with food. This is great, but you can't lie that you have had more sugar than you should have. :)

Anyhow, my goal is to be able to sit on the ground and get up without any difficulty and I feel like I am almost there. Walking up and down the stairs is feeling pretty easy again. When I went off the medications I had a lot of soreness in my wrists and they too have become very lazy and weak. So, they too need some working out.

I feel more energy coming back to me and the feeling of doom being lifted away. I feel proud of my accomplishments. I never thought going off the meds was going to be so difficult. However, with my one year of med free life coming up at the end of February, I feel like I am almost back to my normal self and feel like I have accomplished so much. I am already looking forward to long bike rides in forest preserves this summer with my family, camping, swimming, racing with the kids, long walks with our dog Izzy, and much more. I feel pretty lucky to be me!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cateepoo is Joining the World Again

January is my down time month. I read lots of books, knit, and watch LOTS of TV. Besides getting out for a daily walk or taking the kids sledding, I am pretty much either laying/sitting down and honestly, I don't feel too guilty about it. After the busy days of summer and fall and then the excitement of Christmas, I always look forward to this month because it means lots of time spent cuddling with my family and giving my body a chance to recharge.

Tomorrow night I start back to work. This is my sign that my down time is over and it is time to return to a schedule. I feel like I have had the perfect amount of time for my body to recharge and now I see the signs that my body is looking forward to getting back to a normal life. The first of the signs showed themselves on Saturday when I did a big cleanup of the house, Sunday I woke up and just felt ready to get back to a yoga schedule and felt great after doing it, and last night I started looking around the house and noticing things that need to be sorted and dusted. Also, last night when we were watching TV, I felt bored. I kept getting up and stretching or finding little things to do around the house and this morning when I got on the computer, I heard a voice inside say, "I don't want to spend hours with you today."

I think our bodies are amazing things. When we listen to them, they know when we need down time and they know when we are ready to get energized again. I feel excited joining the world again but also know when next January comes around, I will soak in all the down time I can get.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Good Thing

You know you have a good thing when you leave the house in the morning and come home to a clean house. Yesterday morning I joined a few other homeschooling moms for an hour drive north to hear author Resa Brown speak. I left a note for the kids with a few chores to do while I was gone and everything on the list was complete. Not only that but Alexander completed the list on his own while Sophia, who is sick, slept. She said she woke up and everything was finished. Isn't he the greatest???!!! My mom would have said "angels" came while I was gone. My kids are definitely my little angels.

Sophia was sick with a fever, sore throat and headache. When she is sick, she just wants her momma by her side. So, when I got home yesterday afternoon until this morning, she has pretty much been laying in my arms. I like that she can tell me she needs me like this. She told me once that even though she doesn't like for her or me to be sick, she does enjoy these days because we lay together talking, reading, and watching TV all day. I enjoy it too! What a good thing to share with my daughter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Feast of St. Agnes

My mom sent me a beautiful email today sharing with me that today is The Feast of St. Agnes. This is a special day for me because I was blessed by my mom when I was born with a beautiful role model named Agnes who was also my godmother. As an elderly woman and devote Catholic, she took this job very seriously and brought so much joy into my life.

I remember many things about Agnes. She was always old with lots of beautiful wrinkles, she always sent me $5 for my birthday and always had a special gift for me at Christmas, she loved game shows and sat in her back room listening to them at top volume hollering out answers, she made incredible banana bread, she loved to have me visit her and would have kept me there forever if my mom hadn't rescued me, she was very independent and loved politics. I remember swinging on the porch swing with her and her sister Ruby who lived next door and how at night she was always on the lookout for her cat named Tom. I remember one summer visiting at her house and she took me shopping. We bought a sparkly t-shirt that I absolutely loved. I felt so special because she just told me to find whatever it was that I wanted. I remember she loved putting puzzles together and one summer while visiting we worked on one together. I still remember her house and the special room she had decorated for my visits. When I was 16 and able to drive, her house was one of the first places I went alone.

One of my favorite memories is when I made my confirmation. She was my sponsor and oh so excited to have that role. Somehow she got confused as we were heading up to the priest and wasn't there with me. She was about three people behind me!!! I don't know that she ever realized it. I remember being totally embarrassed during the ceremony and then going home and my mom sharing with me how special the day had been for Agnes. I remember even then thinking that was what really mattered about the day.

When I was 17, Agnes died. I knew then what I still know today which is I have been very blessed to have such a strong role model in my life and that this woman who never had children of her own, loved me to the full extent.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Proximity Award

Meaning of the Award:‘This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes for self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propogated. Please give more attention to these writers!’

Thanks to Sherry, my older sister and friend for this award! Through her blog I feel that we have become closer and I have learned so much about her and believe she has learned more about me through my blog.

I have to admit that I never really know what to do with awards. I feel good when I receive one, but then I feel a sense of anxiety as to whether others will appreciate it, ignore it or feel like it is a chore. So, generally, I just pass them along to family members. This time however, I decided to go outside my usual self and pass this award along to a some of my blogger friends. It has meant a lot to me to read posts and emails back and forth from these blogger friends who are sharing in many of the same life choices as me and I have been inspired by each of their stories.

It took me about four years before I could read the stories of other woman with rheumatoid arthritis because all the stories I initially read scared the pants off me. Stories of going from drug to drug and still experiencing pain. However, when I was ready to read stories again, I somehow found Jill's blog. Jill is the first woman I have met that was also trying to beat RA through alternative methods, rather than drugs. Her posts have motivated me and her emails have made me feel like I am not alone in this disease.

Melissa and I have only recently met and become friends. Melissa's blog is about RA and other amusing things in her life. Although I don't know if she sees herself as a positive person, I find her posts uplifting and her style of writing and looking at life always make me smile.

My friend Jen is both a homeschooling mom and a mom experiencing RA. On Jen's blog she shares stories of homeschooling, family life and a few on RA. She has a deep devotion to God and her family which comes out strongly in her posts.

I have been amazed at how many blogs I have been drawn to that end up sharing not only one, but many similarities in life choices as me.

Ronda's blog is about unschooling, but after emailing each other, we have found we share many other similarities in life. I really appreciate this new friendship.

On Debbie's blog you will find excellent gluten free recipes and other health related information. Debbie is also a homeschooling mom who has turned to alternative health for herself and family. You will find a lot of good information here.

On Heather's blog you will not only find gluten free information but stories of a young mom who is doing everything in her power to make sure her daughter lives a healthy life despite many sensitives. Her parenting style reminds me of myself and I find myself smiling when I read her posts about her daughter.

Last but not least, is Karen's blog which was one of the first blogs I followed and was found while doing a "gluten free" search. I have found so much more on her blog. I always look forward to her comments on my blog and have found her to be a great role model. Karen is a grandma that sold her house and now lives in an RV, traveling to new job sites and sharing her adventures. She has motivated me in family relationships, in growing out my natural hair and much more.

There are many other blogs of course that have touched me, taught me something new and made me smile. Thanks to all my blogger friends. You are each appreciated.

Resist the Starbucks Mocha!

Before eliminating dairy and coffee from my diet four years ago, I used to love drinking a Starbucks mocha. Steve even made them for me at home using our Starbucks espresso machine. After eliminating both coffee and dairy for a while, my body had the strength to tell me that it prefers not to consume either of these by giving me an upset stomach when I am a bad girl and consume either. Knowing it will only give me an upset stomach and I will regret it afterwards, I am still craving a Starbucks mocha. The other day when I took Alexander in to buy a gift card for his dad's birthday, I was almost tempted to buy a mocha, but resisted and came home and made a cup of tea. Yesterday the craving was still there but again I resisted and had a hot cup of chocolate almond milk instead. This morning, Alexander and Steve came home from Starbucks with a cup of coffee for Steve and a hot chocolate for Alexander. The smells are killing me.

People are often surprised to learn that coffee was the most difficult for me to eliminate from my diet. Gluten, dairy, tomatoes, etc were all easier. Coffee draws me in with it's aroma and tricks me into believing it will give me a feeling of warmth and togetherness as it has been something I have shared with my family since I was a little girl. The reality is I will end up with a nauseated stomach. So, I will keep on drinking my tea this morning and hope this craving passes soon.

A Toaster Oven is Found

Not only did we find a Delonghi Convection Oven, but we were able to get a floor model at half the price.

When we brought it home, it reminded me of when I was a little girl and my parents bought their first microwave. We couldn't wait to heat up our first bowl of canned raviolis in the microwave. :)

Yesterday, we stopped by Trader Joe's for gluten free waffles to toast and Whole Foods for gluten free bagels. The kids said they were "GREAT" in the new toaster oven. Steve broiled grassfed hamburger patties for us and they were juicy and delicious.

By the way, I am looking for a gluten free sandwich bread recipe. My daughter loves the "tomato and ?? bread" from WF but the price just went up to $8.50 a loaf. Even though it was something we bought on rare occassions, I can't justify buying it at all now that the price has gone up even more. So, please share any great recipes you have for sandwiches. Thanks.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Steve

Happy Birthday to my husband Steve today!

Today is Steve's birthday. When I look at this picture of him with his mom and our two beautiful kids, lots of things go through my mind besides what a beautiful picture this is and the nice time we had when his mom visited over the summer. Many times in the last few years I have heard, "We choose the parents we have." Isn't that interesting that we choose our parents? They provide something that we need and we choose them to be the ones? So, it seems appropriate on this day, the day of Steve's birth, to "thank" both his parents. I have to "thank" them because this guy of mine is one in a million and they played a part in that. Thank you Sheryl and Charles.

This picture also makes me think of what a beautiful father Steve is to our children. Each day when he comes home from work, the kids greet him at the door, excited that he is home. He includes them in his life and makes them feel like the most important people in his life, which they are. At the end of the day all four of us discuss our favorite parts of the day and his is always when he gets home with us.

I am not included in this picture because I am the photographer in this one. However, sometimes I prefer to be the outsider that just listens in. I love hearing the beautiful laughter that comes from my husband with our kids, to hear the funny jokes they create together, to hear him patiently explain things to them and ask for their input. I just love it. Plus, I know that Steve will always make time for me. For 21 years we have been together - 20 of those married! Each morning I wake up thankful that I have been so lucky to have married my best friend! Happy birthday Steve! You have made a big difference in this world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter Walks

When you own a border collie, which is a high energy working dog, you don't get breaks from taking walks in the winter. Our Izzy is not bothered by low temperatures or snow and if she doesn't get worked enough, she finds her own, less desirable, jobs in the house. As we bundle up to take her for two daily walks a day (a minimum of 40 minutes a day) we always dread the walk. However, by the time we are finished, we always feel good!

This morning was wonderful. Izzy and I walked Alexander to his dog sitting job and then continued on. We stopped and talked with neighbors and found out one neighbor who was huffing and puffing hasn't shoveled in a while. His snow blower pooped out on him this morning. However, even while breathing heavily with a bright red face that didn't look very healthy, he did his own driveway and then continued working on a neighbor's driveway. I saw a lot of that on my walk - neighbors snow blowing or shoveling their neighbor's driveway. What a nice thing to come home to after a long day at work.

Izzy and I continued walking until we wrapped around the neighborhood and picked Alexander up to finish our walk home together. I felt good getting some fresh air (as fresh as you can get with lots of snow blower fumes in the air) and seeing so many people out doing nice things for their neighbors.

As the kids and I worked together to shovel our own driveway, I felt energized and found the work enjoyable!

You wouldn't think this was a high energy dog when we were shoveling today. She found a spot on the driveway and refused to move. We had to shovel around her .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Good-bye Microwave!

About a month ago, the door on our microwave started sticking so that it became a two handed job to open it. Over the weekend, it completely pooped out on us. We bought this microwave ten years ago when we moved to Illinois. Although its job was to warm food, it has taken up room on a table we could have used other places in the house and is constantly being used as a place to store games, papers, etc. Plus, it always seems to need to be cleaned out which I always forget to do. Yuck!

In the last ten years, I have read several interesting articles about the hazards of microwaves which has caused us to reduce the amount of microwave usage we do. So, needless to say, I am not too torn up that our microwave bit the dust.

We are excited to replace the microwave with a toaster oven. We have been without a toaster for several years and used the oven for toasting gluten free waffles and bread. However, I always feel guilty with the energy used to heat up the oven. We are planning on buying a convection toaster oven so we can use it in place of the oven for smaller meals. A few friends have recommended Delonghi as a good brand. Any other recommendations?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do Men Find Natural Hair Color Sexy?

After coming home last week with a much needed haircut, Steve greeted me with something like, "You can really see where your natural hair color line is." I went into an instant panic, thinking, "Oh no, that must be a bad thing." I asked what he meant and he explained that the line between natural and colored is more obvious now that I am eight months and half way into the process of returning my hair to its natural color. (I actually did notice the difference between natural and colored but hoped everyone else was blind to the distinct line around my head.) But, as always, he wiped away any insecurities when he said he really likes the new colors coming in and how it just looks more natural. (That is my goal!) He reassured me that the color of hair means more to women than it does men and that he finds the cut and the way the grays are coming in very attractive. Could there be a more perfect husband than mine who always makes me feel beautiful in my weak moments? I do have to admit that I like the way it is looking too and only wish it would finish growing out faster.

I haven't searched author Anne Kreamer in a while but if you remember, I posted about her in one of my early posts and absolutely loved her book Going Gray. Here is some interesting information from a Q & A article I hadn't read yet but that confirmed what my loving husband told me.

Q: So men don't care about gray hair on women as much as we think they do?

A: The majority of men don't. If a woman's overall persona is attractive, they could care less. It's a little bit like the proverbial: Does my butt look too big? A lot of men think "We like that!" Much of our insecurities are informed by what we see in the media. We don't see very many sexy, interesting role models out there. There's Helen Mirren -- just look at her smile and sense of comfort in her body and clothes. What's not to love? The sort of images we tend to see are the 'Desperate Housewives' view of what 40 can be like, let alone 50.

Q: So you think men are more forgiving of a woman's aging process?

A: What it really boils down to is confidence, a sense of comfort in your body. Who wants to be with a person screaming a bunch of insecurities and feeling unsure of themselves? Gray hair color is a very vocal symbol of "I acknowledge who I am and I'm happy about it."

Molotov Cocktail Mixed with Unchooling

While watching a TV show the other night, Alexander asked my husband Steve where the name "Molotov Cocktail" (gasoline bomb) came from. He wasn't sure either so he looked it up and sent Alexander a link. Alexander was looking over the Wikipedia information and found out it was named after Soviet Union Foreign Minister Yyacheslav Molotov by the Finns who were invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939.

Wikipedia is fantastic because it provides useful and interesting information while allowing you to click and learn about unfamiliar information related to the topic. So, Steve read a little bit with Alexander and then Alexander called me over to retell everything he learned and did some more searching. He loves war strategy so this was just his thing. He looked at maps and found where the Soviet Union set up troops, he read about the League of Nations and spent time figuring out which countries were a part of the League of Nations and how it later became the United Nations. He discovered that the CIA manufactured a 15 page manual explaining not only how to make the Molotov Cocktails, but some amusing ways to disrupt the government (calling in sick, leaving faucets running, lights on) and dropped it over Nicaragua in 1983. The Molotov Cocktail was not even the focus any more - all the other interesting information surrounding it was now consuming his energy.

What I love about learning is that it takes just one little interest like, "where did that name come from?" and it leads us to a whole new area of investigation.

*This post is also found on my new unschooling blog, but I wanted to share it with friends and family who only read this blog because unschooling and free learning just blow my mind sometimes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Making Change Through Commitments

I start each day by reading Deepak Chopra's daily devotions. I have them pretty much memorized but as different things are occurring in my life, the daily devotions tend to take on new meaning for me. I enjoy reading them daily because they give me a foundation to work with, something to focus on throughout my day.

After reading Chopra's writings, I always feel a power to make change. He reminds his readers often that we each have a special and unique gift to give this world and our goal is always to focus on that gift and work towards giving it often.

Chopra also puts out a monthly newsletter. This month he is celebrating commitment. He says by "simply taking the small step today to commit to one thing within your sphere of influence can change the world forever." Wow! That is powerful I think. To find your commitment, he says to just close your eyes and let your heart guide you to where you need to be. After figuring out what your commitment is going to be, write it down. By writing down your commitment, you are strengthening your intention. The final step is to share your commitment with others to make it more tangible. He suggests sharing it with ten other people before going to bed. So, I would like to share my commitment with you.

I commit to really listening to my heart. To let my heart guide me in the decisions I make with and for my family, the decisions I make regarding friends, money, health or any other circumstance in my life. I commit to trusting that my heart has always led me down paths that feel right for me and it is only when I let outside influences (peer pressure, fears, hurt, etc) play a part in my decisions that I feel I am not making a change for the better in this world.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year and New Health Journey Update

Happy New Year!
First, I want to share an update on my appointment. Yesterday morning I spent two hours with my new chiropractor who is definitely not your average chiropractor. He is very alternative which is just what I like! We discussed nutrition, digestion, blood type, past traumas, etc, etc. He is very encouraging of me being off meds. He explained meds to me like this - when we use meds, they numb the neurotransmitters (hopefully the right word) so we don't feel pain. However, our bodies are very smart and after a while, new neurotransmitters evolve as a way to warn us that the problem still exists. Generally at this point, we go on stronger meds that again numb the neurotransmitters for a time and the patten continues. He said that by the time I went off my meds, so many neurotransmitters had evolved that my body was basically in shock and had to work through a lot to remember the capabilities it has. Pretty cool, huh?

He continued working on my knee until he felt I was no longer walking like a "peglegged pirate" and even had my middle finger bending by the time I left. He warned me there could be a lot of pain the next few days but that has been my experience after any body work. By last night I was feeling pretty beat up and tired. But, I feel very optimistic. I believe with any practitioner you have, you have to feel a connection to him/her for the relationship and treatment to be successful. I felt that way immediately with this new chiropractor. I feel like this is the next path in this journey that I am supposed to take.

Now, onto the New Year. We had a great time last night despite feeling very worn down. My brother-in-law Joe and his beautiful wife Hilary joined us for dinner and games. We play several rounds of Scattergories and Catch Phrase until it was time to watch the countdown. Being home surrounded by family was a perfect way to ring in 2009. I feel excited that this is going to be a good year for all of us.

Best wishes to all of you this year.