Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Simplest Things

"I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life."
- Louise Hay
Our weekend was filled with many wonderful things this weekend!

Friday night we went to the city to meet up with a friend we haven't seen in years!

Saturday night Sophia and friends performed a play about the American Girl Kirsten.

Sunday we had an early morning breakfast at Lou Mitchell's in honor of Sophia's 11th birthday which is Tuesday.

And, this afternoon a family friend has invited Alexander and Sophia to a movie so I get a little alone time with my hubby! I love the simple joys of life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chinese Herb for Swelling

At my appointment yesterday, the Yunnan Baiyao that we were waiting for came in. I am to open the capsule, add a little water and soak a cloth. Then I rub the cloth into my knee to get the circulation going and hopefully the swelling down. Wish me luck!

Spunky Coconut Cook Book

When I was first instructed to follow a gluten/dairy free lifestyle with limited sugar four years ago, I went home and didn't really know what to eat except meat, veggies and rice. Granted, I did lose ten pounds easily, but I wanted something more. Slowly over the years, Whole Foods and other nutrition stores and even mainstream stores now carry a selection of gluten free foods. Sometimes they are also dairy free and sometimes not. The one thing they are generally full of is sugar. So, we are still making most our own food at home, reducing the sugar or substituting it for maple syrup....always substituting or reducing. In the last few years, we have found our favorite recipes to come from family and friends that are also searching for recipes or other bloggers.

I am not sure how I found Kelly at the Spunky Coconut ,but I have always enjoyed her blog. For one thing, she is a fellow homeschooler which is always a plus for me, but she also shares wonderful stories of her family and recipes that look so delicious. Kelly has just recently published a book of her recipes with pictures! And, she is giving away a copy on her blog now! So, take a look, leave a comment and see if you win! (I am really hoping I win, but I will be happy for you if you win instead!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stepping Stones

I know that every day is only a stepping stone on my pathway.
-Louise Hay Daily Affirmation


As my body is healing and recovering from four years of medications and five years of rheumatoid arthritis, I am learning that each day is truly just a stepping stone on my pathway to health and life. Some days the stone feels a little wobbly, but it always leads me to a stronger step that is getting me to where I need to be.

Each day I feel more energy and strength and less pain and swelling than the day before which I am so grateful for and gives me great hope. However, yesterday I felt the warning signs of a flare-up coming: slight fever, achy body, sore throat, and fatigue. As the day went on, I napped and watched my knee slowly grow larger. This morning when I woke up with stiff fingers, wrists and shoulders and a rather large and stiff knee, I wasn't surprised. A little disappointed? Yep. Definitely. I tend to want to go into my own world the morning of a flare-up and that is exactly what I am doing. I am spending my day resting and reading The Time Traveler's Wife which allows me to enter a different world for now. I am also taking lots of deep breaths today and focusing on the many wonderful things in my life.

When I jumped into the shower this morning, I realized something happy. Even though my knee is swollen, I didn't have to use both hands to help lift it over the tub. I was still able to get into the shower fairly easily. My shoulders are stiff, but my arms can still lift above my head. My wrists feel awkward today, but I was still able to pull the blankets over me as the night turned cool and lift my tea cup with ease this morning. My fingers, well, I am kind of just used to them. These may seem like little tasks, but when living with RA, you learn to be grateful for these capabilities.

This flare-up, just like my good days, are just stepping stones to better health and a stronger me. My flare-ups continue to be further apart than the last and less severe. So, on this cloudy cool day, I will embrace this stone I landed on and know that better stones are around the corner.

One Man Band

Check it out. This is my guy, Steve. Friday and Saturday nights he played his first gig as a one man band. He has played in several bands over the years as the awesome guitarist, but this was his first time doing it all and with a new Taylor guitar too!

Web Site -
MySpace -
GigMasters -

Friday, May 22, 2009


I have ALWAYS loved bike riding. I can still vividly remember learning how to ride my brother's two wheeler and then sitting in the back of our station wagon eating an orange as we drove to the Schwinn bike store to get my own hot pink bike with a basket. It was beautiful. I felt so proud of myself riding a "big" bike.

When Steve and I first got married, we borrowed my parents tandem bike and rode that for a while. It was fun, but not an easy ride. Soon we purchased our own bikes and rode as often as we could. I had a blue Trek. We rode any path we could find in Wichita, Kansas while enduring the heat and high winds. We took a few vacations to Colorado and the bikes joined us. When Alexander was born, one of our early purchases was a Burley bike trailer so he could enjoy biking with us. My Trek moved to Illinois with us and explored something new to us - forest preserves. Steve has made it a point since moving to Illinois to find new forest preserves to explore on our bikes.

When I ride, I feel connected to nature, to my family and to myself. So, last year, when I went off meds and my body threw its temper tantrum, I felt disconnected and lost. I was not able to ride. This was tough on me. It wasn't only that my knees were swollen and prevented me from moving enough to peddle, but I realized that I also needed strong wrists and shoulders to ride. My wrists were so weak and swollen that I could barely hold the bike up and each bump caused excruciating pain. I didn't want my days of biking to end.

Steve has been encouraging me to get a new bike or at least a shock on my bike for several years. Even though I wasn't doing much riding last summer, Steve still encouraged me to go look at bikes. We found a Contessa 40. I love it! Not only is she beautiful in her shades of light pink and gray, but she is also gentler on my body with the new shock and functional with the rack we bought for the back so we can take snacks on long rides or remove jackets as we warm up. Plus, I found a helmet that is also pink and gray. You can still look pretty while riding, right?

Truthfully, when we bought "Contessa" last summer, I felt really guilty. I felt like we were spending a lot of money on something that I didn't know that I was even going to be able to ride. However, something kept telling me to get "Contessa" - something besides my family. She was named Contessa 40 and I was 40 last summer. That was a good sign. Plus, I love pink and it reminded me of my first bike. But, more than that, I felt the bike was my prize for all my hard work that summer. My body took a huge hit when I went off all my medications. It had experienced days it hopes to never experience again. The bike was my prize and also my motivation to heal. I have been dreaming all fall and winter about getting on "Contessa" and just riding. I have visualized my knees moving with perfect ease as we ride up and down hills together as a family. So, when I write about biking, it is because I feel it is a huge accomplishment for me. It is something I no longer take for granted but something I feel is a privilege to be able to do.

This morning I woke up and decided to ride my bike to my hair appointment. It was downhill almost the entire way there which only meant one thing for the ride back - lots of work! As I sat down at my hair appointment without any makeup or even clean hair and probably a bit stinky from the ride, I looked over at this young gal next to me with her perfect makeup and beautiful new cut and thought, "Any other day I might feel frumpy compared to this beautiful young girl, but today I feel like a million bucks." I just smiled at myself in the mirror thinking how proud I felt with myself.

These gloves were a bit pricey too! I almost couldn't bring myself to buy them. But, the extra padding on my hands is priceless. Each time I put on my biking gear, it reminds me of where I was with my RA and how far I have come.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When I Grow Up I Want To.....

I have always felt like I had callings in life - things I was meant to do. When I taught elementary school, it felt right. I knew I was good and I felt like I was meant to be where I was at the time. My unique experiences while teaching helped guide me to who I am today. When I became a momma, something deep within me told me that my place was home with my babies. As much as I enjoyed my job, I knew that my real calling was with my own children. It has always felt right and still does. Homeschooling/unschooling has also always felt right - like I was called to this way of life. My evening job feels right too, but I know someday I will want to do something different. I know I never want to go back to teaching children, my philosophy of education has grown too much for that!

I have a sense of what I want to do but can't put my finger on it yet - maybe because the time isn't right. I know I want it to be a part-time job with flexible hours so that I can always fulfill my calling to be mom and someday grandma! For some reason I keep seeing the word "touch". I don't know what that means yet, but it excites me to think of where it might lead what I might do when I grow up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last Night of Classes

Every quad I think, "This has to be my favorite group of students." I always feel sad saying "Farewell" because they are such a joy. Fortunately, I was able to move up a level with this group and had them for a complete semester. I am truly touched by the stories and goals my students share with me. Many come to school after working a full day of work and caring for family and some even come after a week of working two jobs. They are amazing people!

This semester I met Joy. She is a sign language interpreter. I LOVED getting to know her and wish she could be in my class all the time. I look forward to spending time with her outside of school.
That is my Sophia. She likes going to work with me on the last night of class!

Marcello and Marco. Marcello was the funny guy of the two. The first night of class when I was trying to learn names, he kept telling me his name was Miguel.

Lourdes and Maria. These two were the chatter boxes of the class -mostly to each other! For many students, coming to class is one of the few chances they have to relax and socialize. I did have to become "Mean Cathy" on a few occasions but they also worked hard and I appreciate that. I love that Lourdes' family practices their English at the dinner table.

Pablo is in class because he really wants to move up at work. He has a lot of experience and speaks English pretty well, but because of his reading/writing skills, he has watched too many less experienced co-workers pass him by.

Jose and Alberto. These two are fun! Jose is really shy but has an adorable smile and such good values. Alberto is very artistic and plays guitar for his church.

The last night of class is always reserved for a celebration potluck. Last night we had tons of food. Generous is definitely a characteristic of my students.

The gang - Elizabeth, Angel, Luis and Abraham. They always arrived to class together and if one was missing from class, they were all missing from class.

Isabel, Graciela, Maria, Gabriela, and Roberto. This summer I plan to meet for an informal conversation group with some of the woman from this group. Since funding was cut, there is not an ESL class available to them this summer. But, this group of woman want to continue practicing their English. So, we are planning on meeting at Panera a few Saturdays throughout the summer to just talk. I am looking forward to it.

Kanynat (Thailand) and Reina (Mexico) met at work and became quick friends. The other night they were looking through the college catalog and Kanynat told me they are planning on taking a class this summer so they don't get lazy over the summer. She said she wants Reina to take a restaurant management class so that when she and her husband open their Thai restaurant in a few years, Reina can be their manager. I love how people of different cultures come together to be such wonderful friends. Keep your fingers crossed that Reina finds a new job soon. She was laid off a few weeks back.

Sweet Maria. She works so hard. She is always a little late to class because she comes right from work. She is very shy. When I stop to listen to her group, she stops talking. I just give her shoulders a little pat and move on knowing she isn't quite ready for me to hear her yet.

Omar is holding up a picture of his wife on his phone. Lucia was also in class with us but was busy when I was taking pictures. I always enjoy having married couples in class together.

Narumon (Thailand) and Gabriela (Mexico) have been in the same classes for several levels and become good friends. Narumon is not only learning English, but also American Sign Language! Isn't that cool how people from different paths in life come together to enjoy each other so much?
If you don't mind, send some special thoughts to Gabriela. I really worry about her. She will be remaining in the same level in the fall due to missing several classes. She works in a cafeteria that has cut hours and she has taken on a second job at Quiznos to pay for car repairs and pay monthly bills. She works seven days a week. She comes to class looking exhausted. She wakes up at 4:30am and gets home at 10PM. Over the weekend she experienced a hit and run while she was at work. She is also struggling with several health issues. But, she always come to class with a beautiful smile.
My class list always varies in the countries being represented. This was my first time of having students from Thailand. They were both so excited to meet each other. Almost every class one or the other brought food for the other one. Since Narumon can't speak with Kanynat without an interpreter, they wrote back and forth to each other in Thai.

Over the years I have seen students come and go. Many try hard to complete the program but stop due to family responsibilities or changes in their work schedules. I have seen students repeat the same class over and over until they learn what they came to learn. Did I already say they are amazing? They really are.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Owning RA

Last summer I met a gal that did some energy work on me. She said she doesn't like to label people with their diagnosis because once we create a relationship with the disease, we have a responsibility to the disease.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what that means to me. Last summer was the worst I have ever felt physically with RA. Many things in my life changed. I stopped working out, I didn't put dishes on high shelves away anymore, I stopped carrying the groceries into the house, I rested a lot, stopped swimming with the kids, etc. My relationship with RA was easy because every part of my body was swollen and hurt. However, I have noticed that as I am feeling better and my energy is returning, I continue my relationship with RA. I have made it a part of who I am. Instead of waking up each day and thinking, "Oh, today my knee is sore," or "Oh, today my knee is good." I think, "What does RA have in store for me today?." Sometimes I even think, "Oh, I probably can't do that because I have RA." I have always tried to continue life as normal as possible and go a step further than I think my body will allow, but I am also beginning to realize that there are times I use RA as an excuse to myself and others. I have created a relationship with RA and as we all know, it is difficult to get out of relationships - even bad ones.

Sometimes I look at my husband and I realize he has never labeled me with RA. There are days he will ask, "Are you up to doing something today?" but he never refers to my RA as a problem. He always talks about our future plans as if I am well. It isn't that he is insensitive, he will spend hours listening to me share my ups and downs with RA and he has many of his own fears for me. He knows this hard. It is hard on everyone connected to me. But, unless I ask him to do something specific like drop me off at the front door because I can't walk the distance from the car to the store and then in the store, he parks and we walk together. It is good for me. I need that time to work my body and to spend with him. When I am limping and feeling sorry for myself, he still sees me as the beautiful woman he married. Some days I have let my relationship with RA believe that I can't still be an attractive person. I am so glad he reminds me I am. There are days that I have wondered why he hasn't said, "Oh, let me do that for you since you have RA and it is difficult." He doesn't do it because I think in his mind he isn't labeling me - he isn't buying into this relationship with RA. He knows there are good days and bad days. Honestly, this is good for me. I could so easily have a 100% relationship with RA and do absolutely nothing. However, he continues to expect me to have a relationship with him and our children - not just with RA. Sometimes it is hard. Many times I want to go to bed, cover up and spend time with my RA relationship. Sometimes it seems easier.

So, as my body is healing and I feel better with each day, I have to decide to how to end this commitment to RA that I have. I can realize that some days are more difficult than others, but I have to leave the dependency to RA behind me so that I can move on to new relationships. I feel more confident each day that I can leave this relationship behind me, but not 100% sure yet. It is scary leaving a relationship you have had for a long period of time. But, although my mind is struggling with the end of the relationship, my body is feeling excited. It is improving daily and feeling energized to do things we haven't done in some time. It wants to feel alive again! It wants me to rid my dependency to RA.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Starbucks Has Gluten Free Muffins

As hard as I try to make all of our meals and snacks, it is nice to sometimes stop somewhere and pick up a little something. Today we stopped by Starbucks to try their gluten free muffins. They are pretty good! We were able to sample it before buying which made it even better! Since we are frequent visitors to Starbucks, we are glad to see there is finally something we can eat there and I won't always have to pack my own gluten free muffins in my purse!

We enjoyed the Valencia Orange Cupcake that is prepacked. Ingredients: Whole eggs, Valencia Orange Pulp, almonds, sugar, orange peel, gluten free baking powder and orange oil.
A perfect day spent riding at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve.

I did it! A nine mile ride. My knee survived and I felt so good being outside and letting the sun shine on my face laughing with my family. Life is good!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Alternative Practitioners and Insurance

When I initially started seeing alternative practitioners for my rheumatoid arthritis, I was hesitant because insurance doesn't cover any of it. The first visit with my naturopath cost me about $300 which included a one hour visit going over every detail of my life and several supplements. After paying for my first visit I went into panic mode thinking, "There is NO WAY we can afford this every month." (Maybe at that point I didn't realize that I was worth every penny of it.) But, luckily my husband and children attended my first visit with me and felt as encouraged as I did that diet and supplements could help my body heal. The good news is that we didn't pay that much every month. With time, the visits became less often,the supplements decreased and we paid less out of pocket each month. Now, if I visit my naturopath, I pay about $75 total which includes a 30-45 minute visit and a renewed faith in myself and my body.

Yesterday we received a bill in the mail for a visit my husband had with an allopathic physican. Each time he sees this physician, the office visit is $100. I asked my husband how long he spends with the physician - about 10-15 minutes! So, basically we pay a $40 specialist co-pay for a 10-15 minute visit or half of what I pay for a one to two hour visit. That is expensive. It also reminded me of my frustration when I was seeing the rheumatologist. I would visit him for about 15 minutes each visit and he billed insurance $210!!!! I paid $40 for the copay every two months.

Today the alternative practitioner I see charges me about $70-$90 a visit. However, my visits last anywhere between one and two hours. I now see this as a cheap visit because he does so much for me in that time. My appointments are always scheduled for thirty minutes but if he feels I need more work, he keeps me there longer and so far hasn't charged me any extra. I like this. I feel like I am getting a lot for my money now. I feel like I am being treated as an individual. Plus, I have made huge progress and I am fulfilling my goal of being med free. The best news for me is that eventually I will probably only need to see him for maintaince check-ups once to twice a year and then continue with a few supplements which means in the long run I will save money because I won't be going in every two months for blood work that verifies the meds aren't destroying my liver, refilling RX's and paying co-pays to a doctor I feel wasn't healing me.

Next week my husband starts a new job and we will be signing up for new insurance and paying our monthly premiums for something that I won't use for myself or the kids unless we have an emergency. I get very frustrated with insurance that they aren't willing to help cover the costs of alternative care because I believe that it in the long run it would save them a ton of money. Through alternative care practitioners we were able to completely eliminate my daughter's allergy meds and we totally cleared up her severe eczema that she has suffered with since she was six weeks old. Now, she just has to watch her gluten/dairy intake. As a family, we have learned to eat healthier which means we are sick less often and I believe in the future, will experience less health problems which again will save the insurance companies money. I believe the work that alternative practitioners do is awesome. I believe they look at us as a whole person that needs to be healed. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but the results usually help more than one area.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Simplest Things

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

Last night Sophia called me on my way home from work as she does every Tuesday and Thursday night when I teach my ESL class. She was telling me that our dog Izzy is always asleep at 9:30 when she calls but as soon as she gets on the phone with me, Izzy goes to the window and waits for me. She then went on to explain how nice it is to have Izzy, who is always happy to see you. Sophia explained that she went for a bike ride while I was at work and when she got home, Steve and Alexander said "Hi," but Izzy ran up to her and was so happy to see her. She said, "Isn't it nice that even if you are only gone for a short time, she is always happy to see you when you come home?" It is true, Izzy makes us feel like we are the greatest thing in the world, even if we leave for only a short time and come back home. It feels like a parade is being held in your honor after a long trip away.

What Sophia doesn't realize is that she also makes me feel that way. I have been working evenings for seven years now. For about the last three years, Sophia has called me every night at 9:30 to chat as I drive home. When I get into the neighborhood, we hang up and depending on the weather, I find Sophia and Izzy waiting for me either in the doorway or on the porch. Sophia always has a huge smile on her face when I pull up and half the time is jumping up and down in excitement. When I need something positive to focus on, it is always that smile. It is so sincere. When I pull up in the driveway, I feel like the luckiest person to be loved so much. She is always genuinely happy to see me. There is no greater thing than to come home after an evening at work and know you have been truly missed.

Her smile is simple, yet it relaxes me, it brings enjoyment to me and most of all, it gives me reason to keep healing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On The Go

I have NEVER been the type of person that can be "on the go" all the time. I need lots of down time at home playing on the computer, reading, snuggling with the kids, baking, getting organized, etc. When I am "on the go" a lot, I feel tired and cranky and something inside me starts rebelling until I honor who I am. For the last few weeks we have had multiple events going on each day - all fun, but still events that are not allowing me to honor who I am.

So, today we are going to meet up with some friends for a very short time and then the rest of the day I plan to do a little yoga, read with my son, listen to the kids stories, clean off the dining room table and have time to just sit. Enjoy your day!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day Mom

Happy Mother's Day to my mom. The longer I am a momma myself, the more I appreciate the time, energy and love my mom put into raising six kids while still maintaining a career in nursing, volunteer jobs, and furthering her education. She is what many would call "Super Mom". She did it all. Only not all at once. Raising her family came first and then as we got older and more independent, she took on more hours at work and went back to school to earn her master's degree. My mom is a pretty amazing person. Happy Mother's Day Mom. I love you lots!

To learn more about my mom and how she has been a role model to me read here.

Mother's Day

I find it fascinating to learn how families celebrate Mother's Day. Some families have big get togethers centered around food and some buy fancy gifts while others give a single flower. Each family has its unique way of celebrating and acknowledging the love we have for our mothers.

When Steve and I started our journey together as parents, we decided to celebrate Mother's Day/Father's Day in a quiet way. Although we admire the others parenting style more than words can say, we have never really wanted to center that appreciation around gifts or on one day of the year. Instead, we have tried to show our children and each other that appreciation daily by treating each other with respect, complementing each other in front of the kids, helping each other, etc. So, generally our day is fairly quiet. When the kids were little, they started making gifts for me which I totally love and in the past we have either cooked out or bought take-out to enjoy at home and avoid the crowds. Nothing too elaborate. I like it. It suits us well.

So, how do you celebrate Mother's Day?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sitting Cross Legged

Yesterday our homeschool group met at the park. It was a gorgeous day and my knee was feeling wonderful! For the past year, I have avoided the moms sitting on the ground because I knew I could not sit down and then get back up without totally embarrassing myself. However, yesterday I felt confident I could both sit down and get back up easily and I did.

There is even better news though. As several other moms joined us and I was drawn into the conversations, I looked down and realized I was sitting with my legs crossed!!!!!! I love to sit on the floor with my legs crossed and for the last year have not been able to do this. Yet, when I looked down yesterday, that is exactly what I was doing. I said, "Look at me!" Everyone looked at me like, "What is this lady talking about?" I explained how excited I was to be sitting cross legged as not everyone in our group is aware of my rheumatoid arthritis. (If a camera would have been nearby, I would have asked someone to take a picture I was so excited) I kept hoping the kids would come over and see me because they would have got it right away. When I told them in the car, they were so happy for me. Lucky me!

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Natural Look is Getting Close

A year ago I made the decision to skip my hair coloring appointment and listen to my heart that kept saying, "This isn't you." I explain more about my reasons for returning to my natural hair color in Why Go Natural?

When I originally began this journey back to my natural hair color, I hoped it would be a quick process. After a year of letting it grow out and cutting my hair shorter, I still have about two-three inches of colored hair. So, maybe another six months and then I will be completely natural. It is taking longer than I hoped, but it feels like me and so far, I have received lots of positive feedback which feels good. My natural hair is darker than the colored with gray highlights - maybe not the look everyone is looking for, but it fits me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Alexander is a Teenager!!!

Yesterday Steve and I became the parents of a teenager. Fortunately for us, he didn't wake up with a face full of hair, pimples and mood swings. Instead he woke up with a sweet smile excited about turning 13!

I can remember when Alexander was born. Steve and I would try to imagine what he would be like as a teenager. Honestly, it is better than we ever imagined. I have been bragging about him for a while here on my blog and anywhere else that people will listen, but he is a good kid. He has a compassionate heart that likes to please, he is constantly helping me around the house, he is responsible and he is a lot of fun to be around. I often ask him, "How did I get so lucky to have you?" I really do feel lucky and proud of the person he is now.

For some reason Alexander's 13th birthday has meant a lot to me. Maybe for me it is a sign of success that we have raised a little baby to become such a wonderful person. Maybe it is that I know things will change as he grows and becomes more of his own person. Maybe it is that I enjoy not only the mother/son relationship we have, but the friendship we have developed over the years. Whatever it is, I just feel excited for him and all the possibilities ahead of him. I feel very fortunate to have this teen in my life.

Here is Alexander with Sophia, not yet a teen, but pretty darn special in her own way! She will be celebrating her 11th birthday in June!