Monday, May 31, 2010

Sophia, My Free Spirit Girl

I often wonder how my children's adult lives will be different due to unschooling rather than sending them to school or following a strict homeschool curriculum. They have both had the freedom to not only learn in a way that works for them as individuals, but they have also had plenty of free time to discover who they are and what they want from life.

Recently Sophia described how she wants to live her early adult life. She wants to live in a bicycle friendly city (she loves Madison, WI) where she can ride her bike to work and most other places she goes. She also wants a VW bug to drive when needed. She wants to live in an apartment. She wants to travel and maybe even live in another country.

Her visions excite me. She is not narrowing in on one profession as I think we are trained to do at an early age, but instead is creating a vision of the type of lifestyle she wants to live. In my opinion, this is far more important. She is figuring out who she is and how she wants to live a happy, fulfilled life. The profession will come and will be built around the lifestyle she wants.

I love her free spirit attitude. She has always been the person in our family to bring us back into the moment. For me, she brings out a desire to live my life as full as possible too. I am excited about both of our futures.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Simplest Things

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

Recently Alexander asked if he could get a pair of dress pants. Coming from a guy that owns two pairs of jeans and one pair of shorts because he doesn't feel he needs any more than that, I was happy to oblige. He doesn't have any place in particular he wants to wear dress pants, but he thought it would be fun to have a pair to wear when he wants. So, we bought the pants. Of course then he needed shoes and socks.

On Friday I took him for a haircut (which he loves) and then shoe shopping. I warned him ahead of time that I didn't want to spend a lot on shoes because he probably wouldn't wear them often. How lucky for us then that the Ecco store was having a sidewalk sale and we found a pair exactly like he wanted in the price range I wanted to spend!!! He was more than pleased. He found not only shoes that he liked but he also liked the fact that they are well built shoes and will be very comfortable.

He "thanked" me several times for the shoes, came home and right away tried them on with his new pants and new socks. He looks great. And, his sincere appreciation and excitement over a pair of shoes felt like I was getting a gift for myself too!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dog Walker

Guess who has been the morning dog walker this week? That's right.....It's Me!!! Yippee for feeling good.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer Classes

Yesterday morning I met my summer students. They are beginning English students, all from Mexico and all new to me!

I have been teaching adult education for nine or ten years now and this summer our program is experiencing some changes. Due to LOTS of budget cuts and the need to spend all money by June 30, our eight week classes have been condensed to six weeks. I now teach an hour longer each class period - four hours, plus a Friday! I am teaching a beginner course in the morning and then for the first time as an adult educator, job sharing my evening class. I have to appreciate my ESL manager who had lots of last minute decisions to make and came up with the idea of job sharing to give us the maximum hours allowed. Plus, she placed me with a teacher that teaches very similar to me and so far, we have agreed on everything! How perfect is that?

When I first started teaching ESL (English as a Second Language), I always taught beginners and felt that was my strength and where I needed to be. However, I always told my manager that I was fine wherever she needed me. Eventually I was moved up to intermediate levels where I have been for several years and absolutely LOVE! So, when I received my summer assignment and realized I was back with beginners again, I felt a little disappointed. (Not unappreciative though. Several weeks back we didn't even think we were having a summer program, so I am happy to be teaching!)

The disappointment vanished in about five seconds of being back with a beginner group. I remembered all that I love about them. I love how they come into the room full of anxiety and excitement. I love that in this level I will have several students who speak English quite well but can't read or write and then others that can't speak, read, or write in English. It is all new to them. I like the challenge of the varied abilities.

About five minutes after class started a 19 year old male student had a peer tell me that this level was too difficult and he needed to be in a lower level. (We do offer literacy levels). I told him to give the class twenty minutes and he would be fine. Twenty minutes later when I checked back with him, he gave me a thumbs up that he was fine. I love the feeling of knowing I have made my students comfortable. I like that they know I am excited by their questions and encourage them to ask me anything. I think the next six weeks are going to be a lot of fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Like A Storm

One great thing about rheumatoid arthritis is just when you think you have hit your worst possible flare and wonder how you will ever survive it, RA, like a storm, moves on and gives you a break. It is during this time that everything about living life feels new and exciting!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Simplest Things

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

Yesterday morning I woke up, made a cup of tea, and headed back to bed to read for just "a little bit". "A little bit" turned into seven hours! For the first time in over a week my body was feeling some relief from this flare and laying in bed actually felt good. Plus, I LOVE being able to read a book from start to finish in one setting. The situation was too perfect not to take advantage of - Steve was playing guitar downstairs, Izzy was relaxed, and I knew the kids would be more than happy to sleep in. I had no immediate responsibilities and I felt like I deserved to indulge in this get away.

As I ran out of tea, I took a break to refill and then headed back up, not feeling guilty at all. In fact, each time I made it back to bed I felt giddy with excitement about both the book I was reading and the fact that I wasn't doing anything except exactly what I wanted to be doing. It felt like when I played hooky from school. I always loved that feeling.

My book is finished and now this morning I plan on taking advantage of my body being able to move with some freedom by putting away laundry, cleaning the bathrooms and maybe even taking Izzy for a walk. Then, tonight both kids are at a birthday sleepover so I have a date night planned with Steve! I feel all smiley inside!

Sending lots of healing thoughts your way!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

RA Super Model????

Rheumatoid Arthritis is taking a stronger hold of my body and I am finding the only thing that relieves the pain is to smile and leave the world of pain to one of happy thoughts and laughter. In the past, I rarely experienced hip pain and never pain in my spine and into my ribs. However, since Thursday or Friday, RA has exposed me to a continuous pain in these areas that is challenging me in all new ways. In addition, my fingers, shoulders, neck, knees and feet are stiff and/or swollen. I am so glad I can stay in my pajamas all day today.

I was just instant messaging with my husband and told him I am afraid to go back to bed because it is so much work to get out of bed, even though I desperately need more sleep. He said, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, you look really sexy." I know, TMI, right? It really made me smile though. He is like that. Just when I need him to, he makes me smile. I told him that maybe I could get a gig as a RA Super Model. Why not? A lot of cool things have happened to people once RA entered their lives. Maybe this is what I was meant to do with RA - show that you can still be sexy as you are crawling out of bed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Everyone comes into our life for a reason, right? Well, one of Izzy's reasons must be to make sure I get up and get moving in the mornings. It is so easy to sit at the computer with my hot cup of tea and not move, but it is almost as if she knows I need to be up and moving around to get my joints going. Every morning, when it is just her and I awake, she gets into everything. I am constantly up and down. I am going to choose to believe that is a good thing and she is trying to help my joints prepare for the day rather than drive me crazy!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Listening and Trusting My Heart - Rheumatoid Arthritis Update

Well, the Arava didn't work well with my individual body and after two weeks of uncomfortable side effects, I stopped taking it. I have been off it for about three weeks.

Yesterday I was scheduled to see the rheumatologist. As the appointment date got closer, family and friends have asked what I plan to do. Will I take the new suggested med? Will I continue to work alternatively only? My answer has been same with each person. "I am just going to go, see what she has to say and then make a decision."

I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty good which always brings a positive outlook on life. I taught my class and then headed over for my appointment. I took a deep breath before going into the office and reminded myself that I would make whatever choice is right for me now. I still had no idea what that would be but just knowing that my amazing body and heart would lead me in the right direction gave me confidence.

My rheumatologist went over all my recent lab work and explained how my RA is progressively getting worse. She examined my body. We discussed the need to get off prednisone. We discussed how our bodies can build up a resistance to RA drugs and what might work now possibly won't work in two years. I wouldn't say that I feel 100% comfortable with my new rheumatologist, but I don't dislike her either. In an ideal world I would have a rheumatologist that used lots of alternative practices and meds only as needed, but I know that isn't possible - yet!

Of course the rheumatologist wants me on meds. I knew that would be the case. Since the Arava didn't work for me, she would like me to return to Methotrexate. We talked a while about how it worked for my body in the past (I did go into a remission while on Methotrexate and doing naturopathic work). The only real side effect I had was hair loss.

I left the office with my prescription and called my mom on the way home. She asked what I planned to do. I told her I was going to put the prescription on my desk and think it over for a few days. I felt very calm and at ease with this decision. As I drove I continued to talk with my mom and by the end of the conversation I was sitting in Walgreen's parking lot and said, "Well, I guess I have talked myself into taking it, haven't I?"

Here are some thoughts I shared with my mom:
~I don't believe medications are the answer. I really don't. I think they help ease the pain and make life more comfortable for a while but in the end our bodies are so intelligent that the pain returns because the cause is still present.
~The side effects of RA medications are scary beyond belief.
~I deserve to be without pain, even if it is temporary.
~I like being active. I love bike riding with my family, walking our dog, carrying groceries, holding babies, and more. Sitting on the sidelines has been a struggle for me.
~Even if the meds don't work forever, if they give me two more years of doing what I enjoy rather than crawling up the stairs each morning or waking my children to help dress me, isn't that worth some of the possible side effects?
~I sincerely believe that my inflammation stems from a lifelong problem with digestion and holding in toxins. Even though I have done lots of work in this area, there is much to still do before the inflammation is under control. The meds won't cover up my digestive problems (although they won't help with the toxin issues) so I can still continue to work on this issue with my naturopath.
~I am familiar with Methotrexate which gives me some security. It has been around for a long time so at least they know what the side effects are and can test for them. Some of the newer drugs scare me because they just don't know yet what the long term effects are. Plus, I know how it works with my body and I know what it feels like to go off Methotrexate if I decide to make that decision again down the road.
~My RA has taken me through many ups and downs in the last six and half years. My family has been more than supportive, but I am realizing it is taking a toll on them and it is time to move on and have some days that aren't painful for just me, but also for them. Chronic pain is never easy for a family and I am realizing that more and more.
~This isn't the choice I want to make but it is a choice that I feel my heart is telling me is right for now. I trust my heart. When I listen to it, it never fails.

Once the decision was made yesterday, I went to the computer and started to search for the side effects of Methotrexate to read one more time. Then I stopped and realized that my heart had already given me the answer and that I needed to listen to it rather than fight what it was telling me. I know the side effects, so why continue to torture myself? I also know what it feels like to be in pain more of the time than not. My heart wouldn't lead me in a direction that wasn't right for me right now.

Tonight I take my first weekly dose of Methotrexate. I will also eat a healthy, nourishing meal and continue taking my supplements. Please send your healing thoughts that this combination will give me some pain free days. And, as I do everyday, I will be sending those same healing thoughts back to you.

Busy! Busy! Busy!

This year I was able to spend Mother's Day with my own momma. The sad thing is all of us forgot it was even Mother's Day until Sunday morning when we thought about going out to eat. We were so busy focusing on Sophia's play. But, I enjoyed having my mom here celebrating in Sophia's special days. That in itself is a huge gift.

On Tuesday night we had 11 teens over to celebrate Alexander's 14th birthday. Let me just say that teens get a bad rap. These kids were so respectful and fun. They spent almost the entire time (4PM-1:30am and then again in the morning) sitting on our living room floor playing games. I am so thankful that my kids have these friends.

The rain did stop long enough we could go outside and make smores. Yummy!

Wednesday night Steve and I attended an ESL graduation for two of my favorite students/friends. Salvador and Kanya meet me every month for coffee. I just realized that we have been meeting for a year now. I have really enjoyed getting to know these two people outside of the classroom. They are both amazing.

On Thursday we completed this quad of classes with food and conversation. This class has been a lot of fun for two reasons. 1) I knew so many of these students from previous classes that our comfort level with each other was immediate. 2) This class was all women except for Juan. Our conversations definitely were different than with a mixed class. Summer classes start in a few weeks.

We have a busy weekend of A Little Princess shows. My niece is coming in tonight to see the show and sleeping over and then there are two shows tomorrow plus a cast party. Busy! Busy! Busy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Exhausting, Yet Fulfilling Week

Our week has been full of dress rehearsals, volunteering, visiting family and five shows. I am exhausted, but so happy inside. My body came through for me and I was able to enjoy every moment of this week.

Alexander, who has been saving for an iPAD, realized he had enough money when Grandma Jo gave him cash for his birthday. (Thanks Grandma!) Below, Steve and Alexander getting ready to go into the Apple store to purchase his iPad.

Poor guy. We were so busy the last few days that he bought the iPAD and then didn't have any time to play around with it. Alexander put in a lot of hours selling refreshments, serving lunches to the actors and helping with clean up.

Show Time!
It has been fun watching the transformation of makeup application this week. Sophia has never worn any makeup before so as they week went on, her skills greatly improved.

My brother Mike was in town for a business meeting and was able to attend!

My mom came in especially for this and my nephew from the city came in also.

Sophia's friends that came for the Saturday night show with Steve.

Sophia on stage.

"Hot Mommas" - Me with two of my wonderful friends, Leanne and Helen.

Sophia and Sara holding Alana, a good friend who has been doing shows for years and had a main part in this show. She was fabulous. So fun to see her progression over the years.

No more shows until next Friday. Today we enjoy the last few hours of my mom's visit and then tomorrow we are busy getting ready for Alexander's birthday party on Tuesday. This is a fun time in our life!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Strength

Knowing that my mornings have been rough lately and that my life is going to be hectic the next two weeks with Sophia's upcoming play, a friend asked, "Are you worried about the volunteer hours?" Sophia is performing in "A Little Princess" this weekend and when we signed up we had to commit to a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer time towards the show. All of my hours will be in the next two weeks.

"Are you worried about the volunteer hours?" An answer came out of my mouth without any thought and brought such calm and strength to me, "No. Alexander will be with me and when he is there, I never worry." It is true. At 14 years old he is my strength. He watches out for me, he understands me and he is always a step ahead of me in knowing what I need help with. So, I know that between the two of us (and three when Steve is helping) we will do a great job. Plus, this theatre group has been so caring and open to Sophia that I find myself volunteering for more than I originally signed up for because I WANT to be able to give back to them.

*I did email my volunteer heads and let them know that I would not be the person to count on for heavy lifting. In the past I would have felt sad about this, but now I focus on what I CAN give and in my heart I know that is good and something to be proud of.

The Number One Rheumatoid Arthritis Remedy

The number one rheumatoid arthritis remedy is LAUGHTER. There is nothing that makes me feel better. When I am with family and/or friends laughing, my RA symptoms melt away and the only feelings I experience are happiness.

Wishing you a day full of laughter and happiness.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Zandyman Turns 14

There are few things in life that bring me complete happiness the way my Zandyman does. Yesterday, May 1st, Alexander (aka Zandy or Zandyman) turned 14. We had a great day!

We ate out. Gluten free pizza.....yummy!

Me with my Zandyman. I am officially the shortest in the family.

Alexander with his new hat, cash and "14 Things I Like About You" note from me.

Gluten free carrot cake we had after going to the movies.

Nicest part of the day was when Alexander gave me a great big hug and thanked me for making his day special. How did I ever get so lucky?