Sunday, August 30, 2009

Positive Thinking is Back!

Those positive thoughts can't stay hidden for long!!! I am motivated again and ready for the next challenge. Rheumatoid arthritis is not going to keep me down.

I have spent the last few days reading about the Body Ecology Diet. I am not yet sure that it is right for me, but overall it is a diet I believe in and feel may help my digestion, liver and dampness issues which in turn would help with the inflamed joints. Plus, over the last few years this diet has come up more than once with various people and in different reading I have done which makes me think there is a reason for that and I shouldn't ignore it.

When I was originally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis I was beginning to follow many of the principles of Weston A Price and the recipes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon which are based on traditional diets. When I needed to do an elimination diet, I put everything else on hold and never got back to the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. The Body Ecology Diet follows many of the same basic beliefs but fits in a little better with what I am currently doing with my diet - it is not vegetarian, it doesn't contain soy, it relies heavily on fermented foods which balances out our insides, it reduces sugar, and the grains used are gluten free. Plus, the diet focuses on positive visualization for good health. I like that! It does involve work though which I am not sure I am up to as I have added several things to my daily schedule already. But the work involves preparing fermented veggies which I know my body needs.

I will keep reading and see what I think. It may be for me and it may not. What I do know is that my body has the ability to heal and I have noticed that each flare-up lasts just a little bit less time than the last one which is my proof that my body is getting stronger. I am on the right path with what I am doing, but that doesn't mean I can't keep searching for the lucky ticket that finally takes care of this disease once and for all.

The Simplest Things

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

Our two and a half year old border collie, Izzy, has several jobs at our house, none of which challenge her intelligence completely. (Border collies are known to be one of the smartest dogs.) But, we do what we can living in a suburban neighborhood without any sheep to herd. Each morning she has the job of waking up the kids. If they wake up on their own, she hears the command, "Say good morning to _____." If it is Alexander or Sophia she runs to them and licks their face. If it is Steve, she runs for a toy. Above is a photo of Izzy this morning as she said "Good morning." to Steve. You can't see it but her tail is wagging back and forth like crazy. She loves this morning ritual. I do too. It is healing to see her enthusiam early in the morning.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Winning Streak is Over (For Now)

My winning streak with rheumatoid arthritis has come to an end for now. A week of rainy weather in the Chicago area has left me limping again and awake with a shoulder that won't stop throbbing. What makes the shoulder pain hurt more than anything else? I have a fairly high tolerance for pain, but this is unbearable. My only hope at the moment is that the pain in my shoulder is generally short lived.

I feel like rheumatoid arthritis has taken control of my life right now. It has sucked the positive thoughts out of my mind and replaced them with feelings of frustration, loss and panic. I know the visions of a healing body are within me, but right now they are hiding. They are afraid of being hurt, afraid of being let down. So for the moment, I will let them hide deep within me where they are safe so that they can come out in a few days and motivate me to keep going again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Everyday Health Blogger

For the last couple of months I have been blogging for Everyday Health as a "condition blogger". I would love for you to check out my posts there . I am listed on the right side under "Condition Bloggers". Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Not Back to School" Celebration

Today is the first day back to school for our school district. As children in our neighborhood woke up early, dressed in new clothes and attached backpacks to the their backs, my two children were still snuggled in bed asleep. Today is a celebration for us. A celebration that we have a dad that not only goes to work each and every day but provides us with an income that allows me to only teach part-time outside of the home so that I can be home every day with my children. It is a celebration that we have a dad that supports not only homeschooling but unschooling. It is a celebration that my children are learning at a pace that is comfortable for their own individual beings and a celebration that I get to be a part of their learning each and every day.

My children have never been to school. When my son was about three years old we decided we would give homeschooling a try. When he was five years old I started our "school at home". We worked on some letter recognition for several days and then my five year old Alexander said, "Mom, if you want me to do this I will, but I don't really want to."

This wasn't the way I wanted our homeschooling experience to be. So, I put things aside and started searching for natural types of learning and stumbled on a type of homeschooling known as "unschooling". The name seemed a little negative to me at first but I read on and couldn't stop. This was it! This was exactly the type of learning I wanted to happen for my children.

The unschooling philosophy often comes from books written by John Holt but has many interruptions. What I have learned from meeting numerous unschooling families is that each family has to make it work according to their own family needs taking every one's thoughts and feelings into consideration. For my family, unschooling is a natural extension of attachment parenting. My children shared a family bed, they weaned from my breast when ready, their thoughts and feelings have been respected and their individual time schedules have been appreciated. We have always tried to honor the fact that we are each different and therefore our needs/wants will differ. In order to make unschooling, rather than "school at home" work is that you have to trust 100% that your children are naturally curious human beings that want to learn about the world and all it has to offer.

My children have learned to read at a far different pace from each other. They have learned math, history and science through play, family discussions, reading together and alone, outings, TV, friends and more. We do not provide a curriculum for them but rather follow their lead of interests and needs. People new to the unschooling philosophy often worry that our children won't get everything they need to be successful citizens. I find this the complete opposite. When children have never been forced to learn, they enjoy learning. They crave more and more! They can't seem to get enough. They ask questions, they learn to investigate, they learn to problem solve, they learn how to learn in a way that fits them individually without having to give up their self esteem or love for learning. They also take breaks. Unschooling children are often criticized because they take breaks between learning. I find it fascinating because I do the same thing. I can read and read and read about rheumatoid arthritis, gluten free diets, self healing, etc and then one day I will say, "That is enough." My brain cannot handle anymore and I need a break to allow my brain to let all the information settle and become meaningful to me. Children do the same thing in their own way. They just don't feel guilty about it!

So, today as we prepare for a visit from my mom and participate in a "Not Back to School" picnic with our unschooling friends we feel lucky. We feel lucky that we are free to educate our children in a way that fits our individual family's values and goals. We feel lucky that along this unschooling road we have met so many wonderful people with similar philosophies to our own and many who have had ideas that have clashed with our own but from whom we have learned great lessons from.

As each of us start our new school year out either in school or at home, I hope it is successful!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Visualization Helps During RA Panic Moment

We had an awesome ride today. The weather was humid which slowed me down a bit but I did fine. The trail today wasn't as busy as yesterday which was great because it has more downhills so you can go as fast as you want. I love that! After a difficult climb up it is awesome to glide all the way down. My shoulders relax, my mind feels clear and I am completely content with life.

On the drive to the forest preserve, I was thinking about how far I have come in the last year. Last summer my fingers were so stiff I didn't trust myself to pull on the brakes of the bike. My wrists and shoulders were weak and every bump hurt. My knees were swollen and peddling just hurt. This severely limited our riding time. This last week and a half I have felt energized by riding. It is almost as if my body can't get enough. I wake up looking forward to the day's ride. I go to bed tired, but it's a good tired.

With so many good days and more physical activity than I have had in a while, I have been reminding myself that any day I may wake up and my knee will be fully swollen and painful again. I know it can happen. I have been through this enough times. But, I keep visualizing myself the way I want to be. I see my left knee the size of my right. I see myself riding into November and putting biking gear on my Christmas list. I see spring coming and hopping back on my bike without any problems. Visualization can create great things and I am keeping those thoughts in my mind because that is my goal.

So, when I downloaded our photos from the ride, I saw how large my left knee still looks compared to my right and panicked. "Oh no! I am not doing as well as I thought!" The swelling has gone down a lot but to look at this photo, I can still see it has a long ways to go. This is when I discovered how far I have come. As soon as the panic entered my mind, I wiped it out. I have had over a week and a half of long rides, walking, and swimming everyday! I haven't had hardly any pain and I can feel my knee cap again. That is progress.

I decided not to focus on the negative but focus on the positive. Regularly visualizing good things for ourselves makes it easier to return to that place during panic moments. I removed the negative from my mind and replaced it with the photo below. Here we are 1/3 of the way through the ride. I sat on Steve's lap and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Sitting in his arms enjoying an activity we have both always enjoyed together is how I want to remember this day. I am making tremendous progress and although I still have a ways to go, I need to focus on where I have come rather than where I need to be.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Swimming and Attachment Parenting

"If you scream, I'm going to let go." ~ I overheard this from a grandparent teaching his grandchild to swim.

"Chicken." ~ From a mother whose child didn't want to get in the pool.

As a parent who practices attachment parenting, I find statements like these alarming. If our children learn at a very young age that we will not be there for them if they don't do what we want, what do we expect from them as both teenagers and adults? I know, people say to me all the time, "I grew up that way and I am fine." I don't believe that. We are living in a world of people suffering from disease, obseity, emotional problems, insecurities, etc. I strongly believe that if we can let our children know from a very early age that we honor their personal time schedules as well as their individual needs and wants and that we will be there for them no matter what, that we can change the world for the better.

As an attachment parent I taught my children to swim without the threats, without yelling, and without ridiculing. I held them close to me in the pool when they were ready to enter the pool and always let them know I was there for them. I reassured them over and over that I would not let them go and I kept my word. If they weren't ready to dip their head, then we waited. If they only wanted to swim a few feet away from me, then I stayed nearby, if they wanted me to sit by the sidelines when they dove in the pool then that is where I was. Yes, it took several years before they were proficient swimmers but I wasn't just teaching them to swim. I was also reinforcing that I am always there for them and respect their individual time frames for learning.

For more information on attachment parenting check out these sources:

The Natural Child Project - One of my favorite sites that I recommend to all new parents!

Natural Family Site

Attachment Parenting Index - Dr. Sears

The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart - Jan Hunt

NightTime Parenting by Dr. Sears - This was my introduction to attachment parenting. I remember picking this book up in the book store and remember how it changed my life in only a few minutes of reading. I recommend this book for any new parent.

The Bike Riding Continues!

Yesterday our plans for today changed. We were planning on getting up early and heading from the suburbs to Chicago to bike ride along the lake all day. We planned to start at Lincoln Park Zoo and follow the path down to Buckingham Fountain and then back. Then I realized yesterday that the Chicago Air and Water Show is going on this weekend. I was really disappointed. We haven't taken our bikes downtown all summer. But, instead of giving up our riding time completely, we decided to postpone that bike ride for two weeks (my mom visits next weekend) and instead to go to a forest preserve we haven't been to in a while. It is a shorter ride but still fun and gives us time to do some other things today.

The path we took today was pretty congested so the ride was slower than some of our other rides through forest preserves, but that just gave us more time to view the scenery! We saw about ten elk and one that was nursing. It was adorable. We shared the path with walkers, roller bladers, other bikers, fisherman, old people, young people, fat people, skinny people, couples, groups and singles. I enjoy seeing the variety of people that get outside to relax and enjoy nature, especially when you consider this preserve is about one to two miles outside of the Village of Schaumburg which is crazy busy with shopping, businesses and lots of traffic.

Today is in the high 80's so shade was good for everyone! (I know Wichita family...we have turned into wimps when we can't handle high 80's to low 90's. I am so ashamed.)

We decided not to stop and take pictures of the water, trees, paths, etc today but I did snap quick photos of my favorite fellow bike riders.

Alexander with his new Kona. Alexander and Steve always make sure all of our bikes are packed and unpacked. Thanks guys!

Sophia who moved up to Alexander's bike but will probably need a new bike by next summer the way she is growing. She is as tall as me. (Okay, I know 5'0 is not a great feat but I am not ready to be the shortest in the family.)

Steve adjusting the seat on Contessa (my bike). He always takes good care of me!

We have another ride planned for tomorrow. I am taking full advantage of my break from joint pain and making sure I enjoy the warm weather before it is gone.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Acupuncture - Good Visit

My regularly scheduled two week acupuncture appointment was planned for Monday. However, I went in today. When I arrived, my acupuncturist was alarmed. He thought I was in a lot of pain since I changed my appointment. Not so. On Wednesday night I started having a little pain and stiffness in my knee and decided to get in before it became worse over the weekend. Good move Cathy!

My appointment was good. I shared with my acupuncturist Jim how great my week had been - walking, bike riding and swimming! We discussed how much the swelling has reduced in my knee and how far it still has to go. Jim reminded me of the importance of visualizing my knee healed and how much influence we have in our healing. Very valuable advice.

We also discussed that since my knee has been swollen for about two years, there is a chance it has calcified. I felt a little anxious discussing this issue because this issue has always made me nervous. However, I felt comforted that although there may be a little calcification that has happened, Jim feels that my knee will be about 90% of where it was before the swelling began and that I will be able to accomplish all the goals I have set for myself.

I view the discussion we had today as a good sign. When I was originally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, deformities and lack of movement were one of my major concerns. Then the pain and discomfort became my main concerns. So, I feel like going back to this being a concern is a sign to me that I am improving. My energy is no longer focused on the pain but instead is focusing more on what I can do physically now and in the near future. If it continues as it has been lately, my future looks good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Active Week

This has been an active week for me. Besides walking Izzy, the kids and I have been bike riding and swimming everyday. I can't believe how much my knee likes the riding. When I first get on Contessa (my bike) my knee feels a little stiff, but within minutes I can feel the stiffness leaving and a good feeling taking its place. I wake up craving our bike rides.

Swimming this week has been a big deal for me because it was my goal this summer to get into the pool without feeling my joints tightening up. It has been great to get in and play with the kids. Yesterday they challenged me to swimming laps with them. It felt good to work my body to exhaustion. But, honestly I was surprised at how well the kids did. They would swim a lap and right away be ready for the next lap. Their endurance has improved a lot while I have been sitting on the sidelines.

I am happy with my week. It has felt full!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finding Our Inner Strength

A friend of my mine is going through a rough patch in life right now. While listening to her, I realized she hasn't figured out yet how strong she is. She is in the beginning of what is a painful, life changing experience for her and right now she feels weak and insecure. Although I hate to watch her go through this experience, I am excited to see her grow and blossom into a person that sees her own strength. I see it. I know it is there.

I think with any challenge that life throws us, we are taken back at first and feel vulnerable. I know I felt that way when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I felt like it was going to gulp me up and spit me out without any say from me. But, each year that has gone by, I have found a stronger sense of myself. I look back to when I was first diagnosed and I would hyperventilate just reading about rheumatoid arthritis. Today, I feel proud of where I am.

I believe that the strength I have gained from my experiences with rheumatoid arthritis will make the next challenge in my life that much easier because I will know it is a process. I will know that deep within myself is a strength stronger than the world or myself knows about. I am looking forward to seeing my friend find that inner strength although I wish she didn't have to go through the tough spots in between. But, our strength can't be given to us. We have to find it for ourselves.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I am a Guest Blogger

I want to thank RA Guy for hosting me today as his guest blogger. Being a parent with rheumatoid arthritis can have some challenges, but to see the marvelous super powers our children have inside them is totally amazing!

Check out the post here.

My Thoughts Are My Best Friend

I think of my thoughts as my best friends. ~Louise Hay Daily Affirmation

Wow! My thoughts are my best friends. I love thinking of my thoughts this way. It helps remind me that I need to be kind to them and treat them with respect.

Right now the thoughts going through my mind are about the beautiful day I had with my daughter yesterday. We were left home alone for the day without a car. Since it was so hot we decided to go swimming. Once again, I was in the pool swimming without any tightening of joints! My daughter said, "Why is it always fun when you are in the pool with us?" (Huge grin) We swam for a longer period of time than we planned because we were having so much fun. Afterwards we rode our bikes over for take-out food and watched a movie together before the boys came home.

There are days unlike yesterday when life gets in the way of treating my thoughts as my best friend. About six months ago my chiropractor recommended using Rescue Remedy anytime I had a negative thought. He said, "You will be going through a lot so stock up." I couldn't imagine that to be true since I consider myself a fairly positive person. But, he was right! So many times during the day I found myself thinking, "This is never going to go away." or "I hate when this happens." or "This person makes me so mad." When I took the Rescue remedy, I found myself taking a deep breath and rethinking the thought. When I turned the thought around to something positive, I could feel the tension leaving my body. I know for a fact that when I am under stress, it affects my rheumatoid arthritis so learning to control negative situations is vital.

I have a feeling that I will always need to remind myself to turn my thoughts away from being my enemy to being my best friend, but it does get easier the more I concentrate on it and especially when I have great days that I can spend with the people I love! It seems that the more you put yourself in positive situations, the easier it is to think positive thoughts.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Change is Hard

Change is hard. Sometimes you know it is time to make the changes and in your heart you know they will benefit you in the long run, but it doesn't make those changes any easier.

This morning I was a little frustrated with my husband because of some changes we are trying to make. Fortunately, I needed to walk Izzy which always gives me time to reflect on my day, relationships and life in general. I realized that I am expecting Steve to make changes that I have not yet made myself. I guess I don't want to be the first to change, although I don't have any problem giving him a hard time for not making the changes himself.

The changes we are making are going to be a challenge for us right now but in the long run they will benefit all of us. I have a good guy and I just need to learn to be patient with him and myself. Change is not easy for anyone.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You Can Just Call Me Super Woman!

If you need to call me Super Woman after reading this post, go ahead. That is what I felt like yesterday. Our day was full of physical activities and I accomplished a goal I set for myself this summer! Yipeee for me!

My day started off on its regular path of taking a 20-25 minute walk with Izzy, our border collie, in the morning. If you have ever walked a dog that wants to control everything that moves, you know you have to have strength and balance to walk her. There have been days that I felt I would probably fall over trying to calm her as she lunged at an innocent bike rider. But, she is getting better. She was bred to herd sheep, so bikers have become what she tries to herd.

Last Sunday we went on a family bike ride even though I wasn't feeling that great. I had some swelling and pain in my knee, my back was stiff and my shoulder was coming out of a flare-up. The bike ride made me feel amazing. So, my son Alexander and I decided to start riding in the mornings. We had errands to run and decided to make them a part of our bike ride. We rode three miles to the library and then another mile to the post office and back home. Almost an eight mile round trip ride. When I got off my bike to go into the library and post office, I noticed the limp I had earlier was gone. I think the stretching and getting my blood going is really helping my knee. The best part of the ride was hearing Alexander say, "This is really fun. I am glad we are doing this."

Now, this would seem to be quite the accomplishment already, but I decided to take it another step further. As soon as we arrived home from our bike ride, we headed to the swimming pool with Sophia. I soaked up some sun and then decided I was just going to take the plunge and jump into the pool. Last summer when I was at my worst with rheumatoid arthritis, it was too much to go from the warm air outside to the coolness of the pool. As soon as I would get in the water, my joints would tighten up and I would feel miserable. The pool has always been a place where I can enjoy time with the kids without any interruptions. They like when I swim and play with them and it has really bothered me that I haven't been able to participate in this with them. So yesterday I got on the diving board and decided to do it! To my children's excitement (Yes, even teens like their mother to swim with them), I jumped in and was fine! It was cold but I didn't feel my joints tightening up. (Thank you Chinese herb!) We played for about an hour in the water. It was so fun! I had met my summer goal of getting in the water and playing with the kids!

After a little resting time at home I made dinner, vacuumed the living room and took another 20-25 minute walk with Izzy, only this time Sophia joined us. It was nice. It was like my energy was never going to end.

My day was full. I felt like I was living in the moment all day and I loved it. This is more than I have done in a really long time. At the end of the day I wasn't sore or stiff but I was extremely tired. I was asleep by 9:30PM. But, after a day like this, even Super Woman deserves a little rest, right?

Holistic Care for Our Pets

Most people are surprised to learn that there are alternative veterinarians available for our animals. When we brought our border collie Izzy home at sixteen weeks old, we drove one and a half hours to holistic vet Karen Becker. The visit was amazing. We were taken to a room without the sterile tables I remember taking our dogs to as a child. Instead the room was painted in calming colors (for the humans I assume) and a blanket was laid out on the floor. Dr. Becker came in and offered Izzy a dehydrated sweet potato which she loved. Then she got down on the floor with her to do the exam. We found out that Izzy had already been over vaccinated. Poor little baby. Sixteen weeks and already full of chemicals. To learn more about over vaccinating cats and dogs, watch this video. It is especially important for smaller dogs.

Fortunately a new holistic vet moved into the area and is only twenty minutes away from home. When Izzy tore a ligament in her knee, she did not receive x-rays. Instead she received herbs and chiropractic care. For four visits and herbs, we paid less than $300. Not to bad when I consider a neighbor who had a similar problem spent over a thousand and is now struggling with getting her pet off medications.

Izzy instantly became a member of our family and like any member of our family, we want to treat her well. We make sure she is exercised everyday, we set up play dates with her best canine friend, we pet her often and provide lots of mental stimulation (hide and seek is her favorite). Also, we make sure she isn't eating a diet full of processed food. Originally we bought a pre-made raw food diet which she preferred 100% over the kibble she received before coming to our home. Then she started throwing it up. My original plan was to provide a homemade diet anyhow, so this seemed the perfect time. Now Izzy gets different foods everyday. I purchase meat, organs and bones from our farmer and mix it with veggies and fruits that we are eating. Not too challenging. If you are considering switching to a raw food diet for your pet or just curious about raw food diets, check out this video.

The health of our pets is important. Just as with our human family members, if we don't treat our bodies right, we will pay the consequences. By reducing the vaccines we put in their bodies to the foods they eat, we can help keep our pets healthy and happy for a long time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rheumatoid Arthritis Information Library

Be sure to check out Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy's blog today. He has put together an amazing information library that will benefit anyone living with a chronic illness. While there, also take a look at his 60 Second Guide to RA. If you know of anyone with RA or have it yourself, he explains RA so thoroughly in 60 seconds! In fact, check out his whole blog, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pack Your Bags Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis decided to visit me on Thursday. She brought with her two sore knees, a stiff painful left shoulder and lower back pain that woke me up each time I moved. Each day of her visit I kept repeating to myself, "I trust my body is healing." By Saturday I was a little teary but not giving up. On Sunday my family asked if we should cancel our planned bike ride. I decided to stick with my plan and not let this uninvited visitor rule my life and we went riding. I wasn't sure if I would only be able to ride a few minutes and then have to head back but I amazed myself. We rode an almost 10 mile loop up and down forest trails. Within a few miles I realized that the ride was exactly what I needed. Not only was the peddling stretching my knees and back which loosened up some of the stiffness, but the inclines made my legs work hard which in turn made me feel like me. I like hard rides where I feel like I have worked out. This ride did it.

This morning I woke up feeling pretty good. My acupuncture appointment went well. We discussed how my body is still having problems with dampness and we have had rain off and on since Thursday. We will continue to work on that issue through acupuncture and the Chinese herb. After my appointment the kids and I accomplished everything else on our list: grocery shopping for the week, picked up meat, milk and maple syrup from farmer, haircut for Alexander, library, post office and more. I love feeling good and having energy to accomplish all that needs to be done. So, Rheumatoid Arthritis, start packing because this visit is just about over!

No Alarm Clocks Please!

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The sound of an alarm clock in the morning is the most intrusive thing to me. For many years now I have had the luxury of waking up on my own time schedule. Well, that isn't true. First it was the time schedule of babies who woke me up to nurse and now it is the time schedule of Izzy, our dog. But, I would prefer the whimpers of infants/toddlers who want to nurse and can then cozy up with you over the sound of the alarm clock. And I appreciate the nudges of Izzy in the morning over the loud sounds of an alarm clock. If I really want to hit snooze now, I can ususally talk Izzy into laying down in bed with me if I promise to rub her tummy.

Monday mornings I have an early acupuncture appointment. Early for me anyhow. So last night I asked Steve to wake me up before he leaves for work. He usually gives me a kiss but tries not to wake me. He said, "Why don't you just set your alarm in case I forget." I went on to explain to him that after years of going without an alarm clock to wake me up, I just can't stand the thought of going back. Sophia piped in right away. She totally got it. Since she is homeschooled, she too never wakes up to an alarm clock. Instead she wakes up to her momma's voice or when she has had enough sleep.

I think I am a morning person because I like the quiet. I like being the only one awake where I can enjoy a quiet cup of tea and my own thoughts. Luckily I am able to do that without the loud sounds of an alarm clock.