Friday, February 27, 2009

Why a Border Collie?

Izzy's first month with our family. She was 16 weeks old.

We are often asked, "Why did you choose a border collie as your first dog?" Although border collies are very intelligent dogs, they are not always the easiest to train because as herding dogs, they pick up on every little thing you do. They learn to read you and will predict your every move. They have lots of energy and need to be walked in any and all weather. If not given work to do, they create their own work, which is not always to your advantage. I read yesterday that a border collie's vocabulary can include as many words as that of a five year old child. When we first brought Izzy home, a neighbor told me he knew a dog trainer with a border. He asked what words he used for training and he said, "I don't use words, I use sentences." It is true. She listens to our conversations and knows what we are talking about. Very smart. We sometimes find ourselves spelling words so she won't know what we are talking about.

Izzy playing with her best friend Bella who just so happens to also be a border collie.

So, why did we get a border collie as our first dog? I believe we are drawn to that which we need. Izzy joined our family when I was in "remission". Together with Alexander and Sophia, we attended weekly obedience classes for well over a year. We often laughed that as homeschoolers, Izzy was the only one that liked going to school. However, as she matured, her herding instincts came out and she felt a need to control all the dogs in class. I spent many hours after class working one on one with trainers to meet the needs of this dog and we have spent hours training and playing at home. Izzy loves the game "Hot, cold" and her tail goes crazy with excitement when we say, "hot" and she knows she has almost found the hidden ball. When we play hide and seek, there is nothing that can distract her until she finds the hidden person.

Izzy loves cold and snowy temperatures. Here she is chewing on a bone.

The last year has been challening for me physically. Not a lot of new training has gone on and my attempt to do agility class with Izzy ended over the summer when I was too sore to guide her. I don't really think she was into it anyhow. It just didn't seem to be her thing.

Izzy hangs out with me during the day.

I find that I am drawn to something in Izzy. She encourages me to get up and walk daily even when it is the last thing I want to do. When I look out our window and see her running top speed in circles around our yard I feel this rush of energy through my body. Seeing her run, always herding style, is one of the most beautiful sights in the world to me.

A friend rcommended Jon Katz's books to me. Right now I am reading A Good Dog. In his book, Katz shares his life with Orson, a challenging border collie. He shares how Orson tries to herd buses (Izzy herds bike riders), how Orson went through their window when a UPS truck arrived (no broken windows yet but Izzy definitely gets a little crazy when anyone walks by our house or comes up our driveway). And like Orson did for Katz, Izzy has a way of making you look deep inside yourself. I find our walks together very meditative. I find that I have a patience inside myself that I admired when my kids were young that I have to also use with her. I find that by taking a deep breath when a biker rides by not only helps me, but also her. She has brought out a social side of me in the neighborhood that would never have existed without her.

Katz also shares his life with Rose, a border collie that joined him as a pup and instinctively began herding. She lives and breathes to herd. This is my goal as I feel better, to take Izzy to a herding class. I would love nothing more than to see her doing what she was bred to do.

Izzy and Alexander chasing each other in the snow.

Overall, I feel we have been very lucky with our border collie. I have read horror stories about the mischiefs a bored border collie can get into. Izzy does let us know when she needs attention. She starts taking items off the counter. Sometimes if we don't notice her, she will even tattle on herself. She runs off with the stolen item and if we don't notice, she will put down whatever it is that she stole and start barking until we come. We will find her sitting on the floor with the stolen item next to her like, "Yeah, I stole this and you didn't even notice." We do try and walk at odd times to avoid bike riders who she lunges and barks at. We have plans to start working on some training to calm her when the mail carrier arrives or people walk by our house. The funny thing is, when she meets the person, all she wants to do is jump on them and give them a lick. She is super patient as little kids pet her and she has learned to control her barking in the morning when other dogs are barking. I say, "Izzy, the kids are still sleeping." She loves the job of waking family members up. When I say, "Momma is going to take a nap," she is right behind me. Her ability to relax while still keeping watch calms me. If I ask, "Do you want to go bye-bye?" she will sit by the door and patiently wait for me and then jump in the car. When we get home, she waits until I ask her to step out. She is a good girl.

I am drawn to the energy of this border collie and the amount of attention needed to keep her happy. Maybe as a living being, there was no way I could let this go as I have done with other things during this difficult year. She has given me focus. She has given me the strength and desire to keep moving. She has given me love and reason after reason to laugh. I can't imagine having any other breed of dog in my life right now. We have a saying in our house, "Izzy was born to be our dog." I really believe it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Celebrating Illness

I like to see the sunny sides of things. I feel like we can either focus on the negative, which can potentially drain us of all energy or we can find the positives. I believe every situation that happens in our life has positives, we just have to search harder for them sometimes. Focusing on the positives that have happened in my life because of rheumatoid arthritis makes this illness so much easier to handle.
As I celebrate many things this year: FIVE YEARS WITH RA, 4 YEARS OF EATING A GLUTEN FREE DIET and 1 YEAR OF BEING MEDICATION FREE, I thought it would be fun to celebrate together. If you would like to participate, I am asking all my readers who are living with a chronic illness, chemical sensitivities, food allergies or other to share five good things that have come from your illness. I know, it might take some work, but think of the awesome feelings we will be spreading to each other. As each one of us reflects on our own positives we can bask in our will own individual strength and then as we read the positives of our blogger friends, we can share in their strength. Think of all the positive feelings that can be spread. Feel free to share five things here in the comment section or five things on your own blog. Email me at if you would like for me to mention that you posted on your blog.

Although I have found many positives on this five year journey, these are my five favorites:
1. I have learned how strong I really am as a person. That strength encourages me in other areas of my life now.
2. I have learned to really listen to my body and trust it.
3. Friends! Friends! Friends! I have met so many wonderful people on this journey, each experiencing their own difficulties. I have learned from each person I have come in contact with and gain strength from them.
4. As a family, we have become healthier eaters which in turn has also made us more environmental friendly people.
5. I have learned to "let go", share my feelings and to ask for help. These may all seem like easy things for many people, but for me, I have really had to work at it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Longest Post In History

I do realize that the last post was probably the longest in blogger history and most people won't have the time or energy to read it, but boy was it therapeutic!

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Five Year Journey With Rheumatoid Arthritis

January 2004
Early in January when I went to sleep, I would wake up with a pain in my middle finger (same middle finger that won't give up the fight now). I kept going through my mind trying to figure out what I had done to damage this finger. It didn't make any sense.

Within the same month the pain of my middle finger moved to all my fingers and lasted throughout the day to the point that it was difficult to use the fingers and I could no longer wear my wedding ring on most days.

I visited my family physician and he gave me something for it. I don't honestly remember what. It didn't help though so I returned at the end of the month and he put me on Predisone and set up an appointment with the rheumatologist.

February 2004
The pain and stiffness of my hands moved into my feet and knee.

Although I had an appointment with a rheumatologist, it wasn't until April. I did receive the paperwork for my visit and began filling it out immediately.

February-April 2004
I read everything I could about rheumatoid arthritis and felt a lot of anxiety that this might be it. The stories I read were terrible. People explained going from drug to drug, the pain, the separation they felt from their family, loss of work, etc. I felt like I couldn't breathe when I read their stories and couldn't believe this same thing was trying to attack me.

April 2004
I reviewed my paperwork before seeing the rheumatologist and realized I had to change all my answers because since February my condition had gone downhill. I could no longer walk up the stairs without taking them one at a time and my shoulders and knees experienced numerous flareups where they would not move at all. I needed help dressing and performing other daily duties. I didn't understand what was happening to my body and went to bed each night with the home phone and cell phone on my nightstand in case I woke up and couldn't move in the morning. That was my fear - that I would wake up to a body that just couldn't move any more. This was a very scary time for my family and me.

The long wait to see the rheumatologist was not all I had hoped for. He had to do numerous tests and x-rays before making a diagnosis. For the time being, he kept me on Predisone for what he was considering mild RA.

My brother planted the idea of diet in my head. He knew someone who knew someone else who was following a strict diet with good results. I remember at the time believing it could work but also thinking I wasn't strong enough to follow something so extreme.

Completed blood work and x-rays and had a diagnosis of RA.

The idea of food healing me had grown. I read everything I could get my hands on in regards to food. The information was overwhelming. There were so many different philosophies. What I didn't realize at the time is that we are all different and because of that, what works for one person might not work for another.

June 2004
My body was quickly going down hill. From April to June it was worse. I couldn't run or skip with my young kids anymore which was a real blow to me and I had a huge fear of deformities. For these two reasons and the fact that just about everything I read online warned of the dangers of not going on medications, I decided this was the path I needed to take. However, I never felt comfortable with it. In the back of my mind I always felt like there was another path I was supposed to follow and this was just temporary.

In addition to Predisone, my rheumatologist decided to try Sulfasalize as the first medication to fight the arthritis. Unfortunately, I was allergic and ended up with a rash from head to toe along with high temperatures and a terrible headache. I now have to state I am allergic to "sulfa" whenever I see a new doctor.

Our next step was to try Methotrexate and Plaquenil. I can still remember the outfit I was wearing that day because I kept just focusing on looking down as I sat in his itty bitty patient room with pictures of deformed hands and he very professionally went through the side effects of the medications. I tried not to cry but I couldn't help it. It was humiliating to sit there and cry as he continued to share the news of the side effects of the medications. Although we didn't plan to have more children, it saddened me that it is very serious to not become pregnant while on Methotrexate. It also requires a regular testing of the liver since it can do damage. I would have to have a yearly eye exam because the Plaquenil and Prednisone can cause problems with the eyes. I felt a huge struggle going on as to which was the bigger enemy - the RA or the medication?

September 2004
I was not seeing any improvement with the Methotrexate and Plaquenil. Everything I read said to give it two months to work. I was going on almost four months and I was getting worse. As I read more about the healing power of food, I decided I had to give it a try. The only problem, with so much information out there, I didn't know where to start. I scheduled an appointment with an integrative MD who had a naturopath working her in office. This office was nothing like the rheumatologist's office. It was calm and peaceful. It reminded me more of a spa than an office. There were not any scary pictures of deformed body parts. It wasn't filled with elderly people that could barely walk. It welcomed me and gave me energy. After an hour's appointment, this MD recommended I start seeing the naturopath. Unfortunately I couldn't get in until November. At that time, it seemed forever, especially since each day felt like I was getting worse.

November 2004
I entered the naturopath's office at the end of November with my husband, 7 year old son and 5 year old daughter by my side. I also entered with a limp that my naturopath still reminds me about today. For the first time, I was sat down and was asked numerous questions about me - not just my RA. My naturopath spent over an hour with my family and me finding out everything from my mom's pregnancy with me to my present life. She wanted to know if I experienced PMS and how my RA and cycles correlated. She wanted to know everything I ate. She asked me about my spirituality, home life, past stress, illnesses, day to day activities and much more. I felt like a unique person and not a number as I did with rheumatologist. As I sat sharing information and receiving feedback from someone who asked me questions when I cried and encouraged me to do so, I felt very empowered.

The naturopath's recommendation was to start an elimination diet immediately - not after Christmas as I really wanted to do. The elimination diet consisted of totally eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy, citrus, tomatoes, coffee, soda, and chocolate. Also, I started on several supplements - UltrainflamX, copper, magnesium, licorice, a detox, homeopathy remedies, fish oil, and more. I would continue to see her monthly for about a year and then as needed.

Decembers 2004
When I saw the rheumatologist early in the month, he felt my RA had gone from mild to severe.

The pain and stiffness was getting worse and the rheumatologist wanted to put me on stronger meds. I told him I had seen the naturopath and was going to try the diet and he said diet doesn't help people with RA. I told him I had to at least try it before going to stronger medications. Not only did he tell me he didn't believe diet would help, he also wouldn't return my naturopath's phone calls. I looked for an integrative naturopath because I wanted someone to work with my rheumatologist. I was sad he wouldn't work with her. But, I had to feel okay with that because I felt so motivated with the naturopath appointments and considered my rheumatologist as my drug dealer only. That is what the appointments felt like. I walked in, he asked how I felt, had me make fists with my hands, felt my knees, always avoided my feet which hurt the most and then asked if I needed any refills and to remember to go in for my monthly lab tests. (I was eventually able to move that to every two months)

The elimination diet was by no means easy. I knew absolutely no other person at the time who was following this type of diet. Gluten free items at the time were not quite as easy to find and like today, many were filled with sugar which I couldn't have. But, I was very determined to stick to my diet. I felt like this was my only hope. I am very lucky. I had so much support from my family and friends as I started this diet. People sent me recipes, they researched gluten free diets, and made special foods for me. I don't know how I could have done it without this support. My children and husband reminded me daily that I would improve and gave up a lot of their special foods so that it would be easier for me to stay on the diet.

February 2005
For the first time since we had started monitoring my inflammation rates, I was within normal. This was my sign that the diet was eliminating something from my body that it didn't want. I felt very encouraged.

February 2005-December 2007
For the most part, I felt pretty good during this time period. It did take some work that first year to get all the pain to move out but it was interesting because it left the same way it started - in my feet and fingers. I even remember when I was able to start wearing my regular shoe size again. I had moved up a shoe size to accommodate the swelling in my feet. During this time I would occasionally experience stiff feet, fingers and knees but never flare-ups. My rheumatologist considered me to be in remission. I was even able to eliminate the predisone and reduce the amount of methotrexate I was taking. I felt very successful. However, I still didn't like that I was told I would be on medication for life. "Life" is a long time.

November 2007
My blood test came back abnormal for the liver. The rheumatologist wanted to retest and if I came up high again, we would have to stop the methotrexate. The next test was considered normal. However, it created a new fear in me of what the medications were doing to my body.

December 2007
My feet began hurting again. I am told RA starts in the extremities because our body can do without them but when untreated, it continues to move up our body. The rheumatologist's recommendation was to increase the methotrexate. I chose to wait and see how things progressed.

February 2008
I had been thinking seriously about going off meds but I knew I would have to do it alone. I knew I would not have the support of my rheumatologist and although I love my naturopath to pieces, I have always made her nervous when I talked about going off meds. ND's are not licenced in Illinois and I think she was afraid of being held responsible if something went wrong. I did not want to put anyone in that position, especially since I didn't really know what the outcome would be.

One Friday when I was getting ready to take my weekly dose of Methotrexate, I just couldn't do it. It was if my body was telling me it was ready to do it alone. My body would not let me swallow the medications. I got sick to my stomach just thinking about it. So, I knew this was the right time. I felt strong and ready to accept whatever this new path had in store for me.

March 2008
Within about two weeks of going off meds, I started experiencing some swelling, fatigue and flu-like symptoms. I decided now that I was off meds, I could work with a new practitioner without her worrying about any possible lawsuits. I would continue to see my naturopath but wanted to find someone a little closer to home and felt ready for another perspective.

I met with a chiropractor that was highly recommended by two friends. After completing a Meridian Stress Assessment that found pages of food/chemical allergies, she performed NAET for many of the allergies. She addressed my adrenals, focused on stress and recommended a few other practitioners to me. Although I believe this chiropractor was the path I needed to follow at the time and helped me in many ways, I never felt comfortable with her personality and after seven months I moved on.

One practitioner the chiropractor recommended completed NST treatments on me. They felt great and I started to feel some relief.

Another treatment I tried was diffusion, a form of kinesiology. Diffusion to me is a method of emotionally letting the past go. It was very powerful. She also read a section out of a book on personality characteristics of RA patients. I will have to post it sometime. It pretty much summed me up.

A friend of mine practices orthobionomy. I was only able to do two treatments with her before she left town.

Each treatment left me with very sore joints which I was warned about. As the body is reminded of how to work, it sometimes hurts.

March-July 2008
These were the most difficult months of my entire RA journey. I had swelling, pain and stiffness from my neck to my toes. I felt like my organs were being squeezed and found it difficult to breathe. I could not cover myself up at night because my wrists were so sore and weak. Walking into the store was exhausting because the swelling made me feel like I was wearing weights on my body. My shoulders were so sore I could not lift them to put dishes away. It was a very rough time. But, it was also a time that I learned to let a lot of things go. I had to. I woke up everyday and repeated over and over throughout the day, "My body is always working towards optimal health."

I know some people at the time were thinking this was probably when I should have gone back on medications, but I just believed so strongly in myself and my body. I knew we could do this.

May 2008
I started this blog. I felt a strong need to share what was happening to me. I felt like I was burdening my friends and family with my daily complaints and felt like this might be a good format to share. Never did I realize I would find the community of friends I have discovered.

July 2008
Finally I started to see the swelling in my body reduce everywhere except my finger and knee. They have both been very stubborn. But, as the swelling decreased and I was able to start doing more again, I took this as a sign that my decision to trust my body was a good one.

December 2008
After trying to get the swelling out of my knee and finger by myself, I finally decided it was time to see someone new. Again, a chiropractor that performs many alternative treatments was recommended to me. It just felt right.

This chiropractor does adjustments but also does nutritional assessments with most of his patients and uses homeopathy and herbs as treatment. He found that my body really needed to be adjusted. I like that he can connect sore body parts to foods I am eating. Well, I am fascinated by it. I can't say I always like it. You can't hide the fact that you are cheating. Even when I think I am not eating a lot of sugar, he finds sugar in my body. I am reminded that other foods do turn into sugar in our bodies and I need to be cautious of them too.

He has recommended that I follow a blood type diet, especially focusing on eliminating gluten and dairy. He also warned against overdoing tomatoes. Many of the foods to eliminate for my blood type are also foods my naturopath recommended eliminating which makes me feel like I am on the right path with diet. He also recommended drinking a daily dose of bone broth.

I am still experiencing some swelling in my knee and finger. The pain that I sometimes feel in my shoulder seems to be moving away from my shoulders to only my fingers and my knee seems to be improving while my feet are starting to feel some pain. This makes me feel hopeful since my last breakthrough ended in these two areas. Everything is moving down and out of the extremities just like they started. I am adding on more physical activities daily but also honor my body on the days it needs to rest.

Going off medications was more difficult than I imagined. I do believe that my diet and supplements were what put me in remission for two years and without them, I would be on stronger medications and possibly still experiencing RA symptoms. I was told by my new practitioner that "God wants our bodies to get better." He said you really have to believe that. He also told me our bodies are amazing because when something is wrong they start sending us little messages. Many times we ignore those messages until it has blown up into a disease. Then we take medications to heal the disease. The medications calm the disease for a while but then soon it remembers that there was a reason it was sending us warning signals and tries to warn us again. That's when we go on stronger meds. Again it calms us for a while but the body is strong willed and unless we find the cause for the problem, it will keep reminding us something is wrong. I don't know why but I find that very calming. It helps me to know that my body really does know what's best for me if I only listen.

By going off medications, I accomplished a goal that is very important to me. I still believe 100% that our bodies are wonderful machines that when treated correctly, do amazing things. I feel like I am very close to being in remission again and feel so proud of myself for respecting my body and trusting in its amazing power.

Daddy's Girl

During the day, our two year old border collie Izzy belongs to me. She follows me from room to room, she naps with me, and she patiently waits for me to prepare her homemade raw food each day. However, once Dad gets home, she becomes a daddy's girl. The minute he walks in the door, she has a ball in her mouth knowing dad won't be able to resist her. She follows him around when he is eating because she knows he will share. Each night before going to sleep, she knows she will get to play the blanket game with dad. He wraps the blanket around his hands and she tries to catch his hand. She loves it. (I think he does too).

When we first brought Izzy home, she figured out pretty quick who the momma was. When the kids would wake up to hug me, she felt a little jealous and would jump the on the kids hoping to get some attention too. We finally broke her of that by giving her the job of waking the kids up and being the first to greet them and by having her sit in a "stay" position while they gave me morning hugs.

Now, things have changed. She is no longer bothered by the kids hugging me, but is very uncomfortable with Steve hugging me. At first I thought she was jealous of the attention he was getting from me. But no, she doesn't like that I am getting the attention when she could. She does everything she can to get in between us too. She jumps, she whines, she barks, and she will even lay on top of me. It is kind of funny really to see how she reacts, but I think we are going to have go back to doing some training when it comes to receiving hugs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rheumatoid Arthritis Poll - See Sidebar

Recently I have been reading about the blood type diet. The last four people with rheumatoid arthritis that I have talked with have the same blood type as me. So, I am interested. If you have RA, what is your blood type? If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, please participate in the poll on my sidebar. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

Natural Deodorants: If I Can't Eat It, Don't Wear It

Over the last five years or so, I have been working off the philosophy of "If I can't eat it, don't wear it." Slowly I am finding alternatives for a lot of the products I put on my body in the past, but it feels like it is a constant job. I often refer to the Environmental Working Group for ideas on safe products and although Dr. Mercola's site can be a little over the edge sometimes, he provides a lot of good information about the safety of chemicals we put on our body.

Deodorant was one of the first things I decided to change. One of the articles Mercola shares regarding antiperspirant mentions how the aluminum in antiperspirants can mimic the estrogen hormone and since it is so close to the breast, it can cause breast cancer. Scary! My first attempt with natural deodorant was with the crystal body deodorant which works great most of the time and is very economical, but found it doesn't do so well in stressful situations. Next, I turned to baking soda. With baking soda you can just dab a bit under your armpits. You can even add an essential oil if you want something scented. It is that easy. Baking soda works pretty well but recently I have noticed a little scent making its way up to my nose - usually when I am in class teaching and have to stand close to students. So, I have been going back and forth between the crystal body rock and the baking soda thinking maybe if I mix things up, that will help.

Anyone else out there trying natural deodorants and care to share your experiences? I would love to hear what you are trying.

If you haven't tried natural deodorants, please don't be scared off by a little scent every once in a while. About 90% of the time the rock and baking soda do work wonderfully. Also, I have found some benefits to using natural deodorants. One benefit is I don't get stains in the armpits of my shirts that I used to get when wearing antiperspirants. Another benefit I have enjoyed with natural deodorants is how much I have learned about your own body. Antiperspirants stop sweating, which is a natural thing for our body to do. Once I stopped using them I was surprised to find which situations made me to sweat. Now, when I feel the sweat coming on, I think to myself, "What's going on? Are you nervous? Scared? Or just hot?" It really is fun to learn more about yourself this way.

Here is one more interesting article regarding body odor from The Natural (like Mercola's site, sometimes they have great information and other times I could do without them.) I did find this information from the article kind of amusing:

And above all, if you want to eliminate body odor for life, avoid cheese, milk and dairy products. They make you smell like "milk and butter." The smell of these products is so bad that when U.S. soldiers were shipped off to Vietnam in the 1960's, the Vietcong could actually smell them thanks to their American diets. New arrivals were often put on new diets based on local cuisine simply to rid their bodies of the milk-and-butter smell, thereby reducing the risk of being literally sniffed out by the enemy.

Although I have eliminated dairy from my diet, maybe I still need to work on eliminating some other food choices so that I can eliminate the bacteria I smell during stressful situations.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Marveling In the Unknown

Besides meeting so many wonderful people, one of the greatest things to have come from my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis is learning how to "let go". In the past, questions and fear went hand in hand with big changes in our life as I tried to gain control over what "might" happen. Change was more difficult then. With RA, you don't have answers to what will happen from day to day so you have to learn to let some things go - house cleaning when guests are visiting, daily workouts, busy days, definite plans for the following day, etc.

Deepak Chopra's Daily Devotion for Friday is The Law of Detachment. I have been reading his daily devotions for a few years now and this one has taken me the longest to grasp. For this daily devotion, Chopra recommends three things:

1. Commit to detachment by allowing myself and those around me the freedom to be as they are. By not forcing my solutions on problems, I don't create new problems.

2. Factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel, because uncertainty is my path to freedom.

3. Step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I am open to the numerous choices that can create fun, adventure, magic and mystery.

With the law of detachment, I find myself not worrying so much about what tomorrow will bring with my RA because I now know that it can also bring fun (laughing at myself trying to get out of the bathtub), adventure (I have learned so much about other people, myself and the possibilities for alternative medicine that I never knew existed), magic (the love I have received from friends and family is true magic and although I always knew I was loved, I didn't realize how much), and mystery (I always wonder what other illnesses I have prevented by making healthier choices in my life and that of my family). Instead of worrying about what tomorrow may bring, I can instead use my energy to focus on the positives that are happening around me right now with my rheumatoid arthritis.

Learning to "let go" and open my mind to unknown possibilities has also helped me in other parts of my life. My husband's company will be outsourcing a lot of the IT department in June. In the past, I would be 100% freaking out right now. Instead, I am really concentrating on "anticipating the numerous choices" that can occur - maybe he will be laid off and have a difficult time finding a job and like others, we lose all of our material things- that is the worse case scenario. But, maybe the outsourcing company will hire him and he will be able to move into other areas of IT that he has been interested in for some time. Maybe they won't even outsource his team. Maybe between now and then the perfect job he has been looking for will be found. Maybe there are other possibilities we haven't even imagined. I guess my point is, rather than focus on the worst that can happen, I feel calmer thinking the possibilities are great. It gives me a strength I never knew I possessed. Worrying day after day about what "might" happen doesn't accomplish anything but sore joints and a crabby attitude. Instead, I am taking time each day to "breath in, breath out" and marvel in the unknown.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Baoding Balls for Rheumatoid Arthritis

At a recent visit with my chiropractor, he recommended baoding balls as a way to use my right middle finger which is being very stubborn. Most of the time, this finger does not want to bend on its own and therefore, I have just stopped using it. I started using the balls about two weeks ago and love them. Not only are they good exercise for my fingers but I feel like they give my wrists a good workout too. At first they are awkward but it doesn't take long to get them moving quickly. The kids are also using them but I am determined to stay one step ahead of them so I can impress them with my new moves.

Here are some of the benefits of Baoding Balls:
~Builds up finger coordination and hand strength.
~Excellent for relieving arthritis and maintaining manual dexterity.
~By manipulating them in your hand, you can also work the forearm and shoulder muscles, since they are connected.
~Your ten fingers are interconnected with the human cranial nerve, as well as important human organs such as the intestines, stomach, gallbladder, kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver and heart. When the meridians are stimulated, there is improved circulation of vital energy and blood in our bodies.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feeling Beautiful

Late yesterday afternoon as I pulled my cell phone out of my purse, I realized I had a message. A friend that I spent the afternoon with had called to tell me she thought my hair looked beautiful. Wow! I love hearing that! After talking with her some more, she said, "I never even see gray when I look at you, and the natural color just makes you look so naturally beautiful, because it's perfectly suited to you."

As more of my natural hair grows in and replaces the colored, I have been thinking the same thing...the natural color just seems to suit me better. I am really happy with it. In fact, while I was doing a search for pictures of the kids the other day, I saw a picture of me right before I started coloring my hair. I really liked how my hair looked. It made me think about why I colored it in the first place. It wasn't an easy decision for me. I remember asking all my friends at the time for advice and going back and forth over whether to do it or not and then have never felt completely comfortable with it. I guess it has just never felt like "me".

Sophia asked me the other day if I thought the chemicals of hair coloring had contributed to my rheumatoid arthritis. That's when it made sense. I started coloring my hair after being diagnosed. Maybe coloring my hair was my way of gaining some control over what happened to me when RA seems to take that option away from you. At the time I remember I was struggling with my hair thinning out because of the medications. Maybe as I gain more control over my RA, I don't feel the need to control other parts of my life, such as my hair.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Reflection on Friendship

Last week I posted about a lost friendship. I shared that you know you have a good thing when you are a 41 year old woman who still calls your mom to help you through a crisis with a friend. When I posted it, it felt right. Later in the day though, I felt like maybe I wasn't ready to share that my friendship with someone I really admire was lost and deleted the post. However, after reflecting on it a little more, I have decided that this little blog space is my place to share a part of me and a big part of me has felt a real loss over this.

Throughout this unexpected turn of events, my mom has encouraged me with words that I needed to hear. She has reminded me that we each have a role to play in our friendships and that even though we don't always want a friendship to end, we sometimes have to let it go when it is quite obvious it is over. We have to pray that our friend is on the path he/she was meant to travel and most importantly, "be thankful for the good times you had together and let the rest go." I can't even begin to tell you how much easier it has made this by following her words. Sometimes in a difficult situation we forget about the good times together and the things we admired about that person, but when I heard my moms words to "be thankful for the times together", it made everything easier.

A friend of mine always says, "People come into our life for a reason." My lost friend was in my life for a reason and I in hers for a reason. Maybe we have completed the reason for being together.....I don't know. However, I feel ready to "let the rest go" and focus on how I have grown as a person because of the time I spent with her.

Thanks Mom for having the right words for me. I love you a lot!

RA Update

I saw the chiropractor on Thursday and it was a very encouraging appointment. I let my guard down a little bit more with him on this visit and shared some of my insecurities. He reminded me that my body wants to heal and that we are getting close. I feel it too......mentally and physically. He knew without me telling him how frustrating it is to feel good for a long period of time and then to wake up with stiff joints that don't let you accomplish what your mind wants to do. He also reminded me of how important my diet is in making all of this work. These were all words I needed to hear.

My knee seems to be responding well to the adjustments. After each visit it moves with more ease and is accepting the adjustments for a longer period of time. You start to remember how glorious it is to run down the stairs instead of taking one at a time. My middle finger is bending, even in the mornings, on a regular basis. These are the last two joints that require extra TLC. I feel very optimistic that I am getting close to my goal of living med free, pain free, and stiff joint free!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Groundhog Day Comes To Life

*I have two blogs that I post to regularly. This blog is pretty much for everything going on in my life and the other blog is to share more of our unschooling stories, but since unschooling is really just a part of our normal life, I sometimes don't know which blog to post to. Since we enjoyed our Groundhog Day activities so much, I decided to share on both blogs for those that just read one or the other.

Friday night as we were watching the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, our electricity went out. Saturday morning around 6am the electricity finally came back on and after sleeping a while longer, we woke up and finished watching Groundhog Day. We also found out that the movie was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois which is only about an hour and 15 minute drive from us. So, since we planned to do something outside yesterday anyhow, my "always fun" husband printed out directions and we were headed to Woodstock to see the scenes. We found out we had just missed Woodstock's Groundhog Day events, but with the help of a map showing where scenes occurred and plaques set up around town, we knew exactly where various events took place. All four of us loved being outside on this 55 degree day. Seeing the sites of one of our favorite movies made us feel like we had taken a little vacation from normal life for the day.

The bed and breakfast where Bill Murray's character Phil repeatedly woke up day after day at 6:00 AM. This is a private residence but we learned it has been bought with plans to convert it to a bed and breakfast. We thought it would be so fun to rent the same room and participate in Woodstock's Groundhog Day events. I am sure we aren't the only people thinking that.

The exterior of this building was used as the hotel that Rita (Andie MacDowell) stayed in.

The spot where Bill Murray stepped into a pothole in the street that was filled with water.

Bill Murray met up with the character Ned day after day at this location. Sophia decided to reenact this scene.

In one scene, Bill Murray shows up at this theatre dressed as Clint Eastwood.

As Bill Murray's character Phil becomes a more caring person, he tries to save a homeless man in this alley.

The bowling alley where Phil realizes he doesn't have to follow the rules anymore. This was the smallest bowling alley we have ever seen with maybe six lanes.

Steve and I could not resist doing the dance scene in the gazebo.

And Sophia and I couldn't resist either. We weren't the only ones. We saw another couple doing the same thing.

Phil decides to commit suicide by jumping from this window.....only to wake up again at 6:00 the next morning.

*Photos taken by Sophia

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Warm Weather

With all the cold weather we have had, it is almost difficult to trust leaving the house without layers of clothes, hats and mittens. The forecast for Naperville, Il today is in the 50's. I can't remember the last time we experienced this kind of warmth, but I will take it. Today our family will be enjoying the great outdoors. I hope you are too!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lesson to Learn

"When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change."
Thich Nhat Hanh,
Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fond Memories of American Girl Dolls

Sophia and I started a huge cleanup in her bedroom about two weeks ago. We completed a lot, but there was a lot of work to do and we have been slowly chipping away at it. We planned to finish up yesterday but she had an opportunity to do a sleepover with a friend, so I decided to finish most of it on my own as a surprise to her.

As I was going through her collection of American Girl dresses my first thoughts were, "Oh no, we don't have matches for all the shoes and we are missing a few pieces to outfits." But as I dug more I thought about all the years Sophia has played American Girl (and she isn't finished yet) and new thoughts emerged, "With all of the playing she has done over the years, it isn't a surprise that we are missing things." I felt more relief than discouragement knowing that she has filled her days being a little girl. She doesn't worry about the future, she just lives in the moment, something I have always admired about her.

When Sophia was five years old she wanted an American Girl Bitty Baby. I had hoped we would avoid the whole American Girl thing, but she received money as a gift and had her heart set on a baby. So, when Grandma and cousin Joe were visiting, we visited American Girl Place.

It was our first time in the store but she had one purpose for being there and that was to bring her baby home. She picked out the Bitty Baby she wanted and was ready to head to the register. She had no interest in looking around. As soon as we left the store, she wanted her baby out of the box because she was afraid she wouldn't be able to breathe.

Sophia spent hours and hours with her Bitty Baby. She carried her in a sling, she nursed her and loved her like a good momma does. One time when we were going to the mall, she was getting her Bitty Baby ready to put in the sling. Steve said something like, "We aren't going to bring the doll into the mall. You will have to carry her for too long and she will get heavy." She kept getting the baby ready like she never heard a word he said. Steve told her again to leave the doll in the car. She finally said something like, "Mommies don't leave their babies in the car when they are gone." Bitty Baby came with us.

When Sophia was seven Santa brought her Kirsten, an 1854 American Girl. By this time,Sophia had totally immersed herself in a pioneer lifestyle - she taught herself to read using McGruffy Readers, she wore a prairie dress, apron, boots and bonnet every single day for over a year, she played pioneers, she wanted to have "school" where we rang a bell and I wore a dress with my hair in a bun (yes, I played along), and much more. Kirsten was her sole mate.

She now took Kirsten everywhere she went. She played with her and we read all the books about her life as an immigrant to the United States.

Knowing that Santa might leave Kirsten, my friend Olif and I traded talents. She knitted a poncho, hat and mittens for me to give Sophia and I sewed an American Girl dress for her to give her daughter.

This is Emma modeling the dress I made. Emma was given to Sophia when she was two or three years old and was well loved. Her hair was a mess which didn't bother Sophia one bit - even when strangers made rude comments.

My mom kept Sophia clothed during her pioneer days. She sewed dresses, aprons and bloomers for both Sophia and Kirsten and when everyone in the family received a quilt from my mom, Kirsten also got one.

If you have ever purchased American Girl items, you know they are very expensive. We tried to find substitutions whenever possible. Sophia wanted Kirsten's St. Lucia outfit, but it was between $35-$40 for the complete outfit. So, we purchased fabric, redesigned a pattern I had and made our own St. Lucia dress for Kirsten. We found a small wreath after Christmas and glued birthday candles to it for the crown. For under $10 we had a whole outfit and a cinnamon roll tray made out of polymer clay.

As Sophia moved away from pioneers and into the era of hippies, Kirsten joined her.

Kirsten is at a protest and is carrying a sign that says, "Make love not war."

Two years ago, Alexander made a bed for Kirsten and sewed pillows as a gift to Sophia for Christmas.

As I organized the American Girl stuff, I found myself having fun dressing Bitty Baby and Kirsten in my favorite outfits. It was kind of fun being in a little girls bedroom, all alone, playing again.....being in the moment.