Friday, September 24, 2010


In the last several months I have noticed a change in me.  I am more open to new experiences for myself and my family.  I find myself saying, "yes" to things that in the past I said, "no" to.  Sophia recently asked why I changed my mind about an outing she wants to do next summer and I explained that I just needed some time to "grow up".  When the idea was first presented to me, all the things that "might" happen scared me into an answer of "no" rather than considering all the positive "mights" that could also happen.

I have always been a cautious person, yet somewhat open to change after careful consideration. I am not naturally a risk taker, yet feel freedom and excitement when others challenge me to do so. (One of the many reasons I love Steve).  When rheumatoid arthritis became a part of me seven years ago, I was forced into some risk taking that didn't bring with it  freedom and excitement.  Going on medications made me feel caged, scared, and vulnerable.  Going off medications and following a natural approach felt liberating to me.  It felt like me.  Each decision was a risk and forced me to make great changes in my life, not all of them easy changes.   Going back on meds again has forced me again to take new risks.  By going on medications again I risk the medications damaging my body.  But, I also risked feeling good again.    

With every decision we make, we are taking risks and with each of those decisions we have to think about what "might" happen.  Often the "mights" are all of the negatives that "might" happen.  After several years now of having limited mobility and feeling drained physically as well as emotionally,  I feel good again.  My risk paid off.  The medications "might" not have worked for my individual body, but they are.  They "might" not work for my individual body in two years, but I will meet that challenge when and if it comes. 

As I feel better physically and emotionally, I am focusing more on the positive "mights".  When Sophia approached me last year about going away for camp for an entire week (possibly two) in Vermont, it scared me.  She "might" be introduced to things she is not ready for, she "might" get hurt, she "might" be scared and regret her decision to go, she "might" be a different person when she came back.  But as I saw Sophia emailing the camp counselors and getting answers to my concerns, as she sent me videos of campers who had the time of their lives, and as I appreciated that my daughter is a free spirit that NEEDS to follow her own heart, and is growing up to be a responsible loving person, I started thinking of all the positive "mights".  She "might" meet people that will expose her to wonderful things she has never imagined, she "might" spend every day laughing, she "might" have experiences that will stay with her a lifetime, and she may come back a different person.  Once I started thinking of all the positive "mights", I knew my answer could only be "yes". 

As I continue to "grow up" and think outside my comfort box to all the possibilities that "might" happen, I feel excited.  Rheumatoid arthritis has taught me that life is meant to be lived.  We never know what is going to come into our life that will slow us down or prevent us from living life the way we want to.   So, rather than worrying about all the negatives that  "might" happen, we have to think of the positives and live our lives to their fullest!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

True To My Nature

My kids have never been interested in competitive sports, however, they have always enjoyed being active.  As soon as the kids were off training wheels we were out bike riding.  Sophia will often take rides alone as well as continues to ride with us as a family and Alexander has become Steve's primary biking buddy.  They both seem to enjoy long walks in nature.  When they were little we went to the playground and played "follow the leader".  One of us was the leader and we did as many different things on the equipment as we could - jumps, leaps, hangs, etc.

In the last two years, Alexander has shown that he really likes to work his body hard.  When we take walks, he is always jumping over benches and large rocks.  He loves a good game of tag where there are at least one or two other players who make him run his fastest.  (Mack, a homeschooling dad in our group makes him run really hard and Alexander loves when he plays.)  At fourteen though, he is finding it harder and harder to engage his friends and sister in a game of tag.  He tried doing some free weights, but it wasn't his thing - too boring.  He loves running and will often go for a three mile run.  He doesn't keep a schedule of running though, he just seems to go when his body tells him he needs to. We have been discussing options for him so he feels challenged, yet honors the type of person he is. 

This morning as I was reading articles on diet and watching videos, I discovered MovNat: Explore Your True Nature.      On Erwan Le Corre's site he shows how he works out using nature as his equipment.  It is truly motivating (and sexy).   It reminds me of when we played "follow the leader" and worked our bodies in a variety of ways.

Check out this video of one of his workouts:

This summer we went to Starved Rock when my sister was visiting.  The kids wanted to climb and jump on everything.  Of course, it scared the pants off me, but I admired that they were using their own personal strength and determination while also taking risks.  I can't imagine that we would ever take this workout as far as Erwan Le Corre, but I do like the idea of incorporating more natural types of exercise into our daily routine.  This workout tells me again how important it is to listen to more of what our children are saying and feeling.  I know I often act out of fear when it comes to my kids and prevent them from trying out things that "might" harm them rather than listening to what feels right to them.  I think it is right to explore our bodies to their limits and kids are constantly trying to do that.....we just get in their way.  This video was a good reminder to stay out of their way and let them work their bodies.

*I completed an entire yoga routine today.  I am back on my supplements and the pain that was trying to make its way back into my life has disappeared again. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Good News in Regards to My Hair

I am not sure when or for what reason, but the shedding of my hair from the Methotrexate seems to have slowed down.  When I first started back on Methotrexate I had a lot of hair shedding as I did the entire time I was on it in the past.  Every time I ran my fingers through my hair, brushed my hair out, or took a shower large amounts of hair would come out.  I have noticed for some weeks now that the amount of hair coming out is pretty much normal again.  I don't know what made this change, but I am not complaining!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've Fallen....and I CAN Get Up!

When I took over the morning walks with Izzy again, I resumed the training I was doing with her on our walks before I had to take a break. She has always been a "reactive" dog so as we walk past a bike rider or jogger I have been giving her commands so she knows how I expect her to behave. She is doing an awesome job. It is rare that she lunges at a bike rider anymore and when we walk past the homes of our neighbors with dogs that also go a little crazy, she quietly looks at me and returns to my side. Even when the kids walk her in the afternoon they have noticed the improvement in her leashed walking.

Yesterday we had a setback. We were out early when we saw a little white yappy dog approaching us. (These are Izzy's least favorite kind of dogs.) I quickly went to the opposite side of the street as I always do with any dog that Izzy is not familiar. I also let her know what I expected of her, which up to this point has been working out great. But yesterday, it was just too much for Izzy and once the dog started barking and lunging at her, she just couldn't control herself and started right back at the dog. I remained calm as the dogs continued barking and lunging at each other expecting that the guy across the street would have a better chance of moving his little dog along than I would my border collie. But no, he didn't seem to be in a big hurry and Izzy continued to get more agitated and stronger. For the second time since she became our family dog, I found myself flipped over on the ground. My first thought of course was "this is so embarrassing. Did anyone else see me? " and my second thought was "wow, I am so glad this happened when I am capable of getting up from the ground by myself." It would have been really embarrassing to have to wait for a neighbor to come help me up or give my kids an emergency call to come help me up. Falling on a walk or being pulled down to the ground in this case, and not being able to get back up has been a fear of mine for a long time. But, my fears didn't come true (this time anyhow) and I not only got back up, but also was able to keep hold of my crazy dog!


I emailed a good friend the other day and shared with her that I have been having some pain returning. It is strange how each joint has its own type of pain. Most of the pain has been in my fingers, toes and left knee. As a student of naturopathy she right away asked what I have been doing differently. I couldn't think of a thing. Then on Monday night I took Sophia to see our family physician for a diagnosis and texted my friend for natural substitutes to his recommendations. (Our family physician is awesome. He is aware of this game I play. Go to him for the diagnosis and then treat it naturally). She recommended a supplement that I have been taking for pain. I admitted that I haven't been taking it the last few weeks because I ran out and thought maybe I didn't need it anymore. She said, "That could be the problem." I am not sure if it is, but I did restock my supplements yesterday and hope that they do the trick.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lake Shore Ride

Yesterday morning Steve, Sophia, Alexander and I went out for breakfast and then headed downtown for a relaxing bike ride. We started at Lincoln Park Zoo, stopped off at Navy Pier to play a bit and then continued on past Buckingham Fountain, Shedd Aquarium and the crowds of people heading to the Bears game.

This ride was slow paced and easy. The most difficult part was weaving in and out of joggers, walkers, and other bikers. All four of us knew that we could stop as often as we wanted to explore and have fun which made this type of ride different than when we ride forest preserves. Plus, I liked this ride because it was fun to watch the numerous people out and about exercising, talking, and enjoying the day and I like having the city on one side of me and Lake Michigan on the other as I ride.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Maya, this post is for you. Thank you so much for rejoicing in my recent "bragging" and even asking for more. You are a beautiful friend.

The other day I jokingly said to the kids, "I feel like I am on drugs with all the energy I have." Alexander said, "Mom, you ARE on drugs." Oh yeah.

Life continues to be moving quickly for me. I have had some pain and stiffness in my toes and fingers the last few days, but they are minor to where I have been so I hate to even mention it when so many good things continue to be happening for me. But, these little pains remind me that even though I am basically feeling pre-RA, that it will always be a part of who I am and that someday soon it may come back to show its true strength.

But enough of that. This post is about bragging. This week I added an arm workout to my Pilate's DVD. Although I still can't do everything in the workout, I was able to accomplish more on Wednesday than Monday and more on Friday than Wednesday. When I work out I can tell that there is still a lot of inflammation in my wrists, ankles and knees. But, I am constantly doing more in my workouts and best of all I feel muscles returning!!!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I took on another part-time job. In addition to teaching adult ESL twelve hours a week, I will now be tutoring reading to middle school/high school students. I am working for a non-profit company and have spent several hours the last few Fridays in training. Luckily we have been able to do almost all of the training through SKYPE. Today I had my first client. I really like her and felt that we connected. Last year at this time I could barely make it back to my car after work I was in so much pain so it is exciting to be adding on work that I truly enjoy.

On Thursday, in addition to a full day of teaching (four hours in the morning and two hours at night) I fit in school work with Alexander, a trip to the library with Sophia and made muffins with the kids when I got home in the evening. Plus I made dinner! I was definitely tired at the end of the day, but I think anyone would be.

Sometimes during the day I feel like I am the Energizer Bunny and will never stop going. I have so much to accomplish and the energy to do it. However, I have to remind myself of how important it still is to stop and enjoy the simple things that surround me. (This is one of the important lessons I learned from having rheumatoid arthritis.) So, along with all bragging I have been doing the last few weeks, I want to stop and share some of the simple things that were part of my life this week.

• This week, it was a flower that slowed me down. Earlier in the summer Sophia planted several sunflower seeds in our front yard. Only one grew, but it faces right into our living room window and looks right at me while at I am at the computer. It is absolutely perfect! It reminds me of Kansas and my family, it reminds me to smile and look for beauty all around me, and it reminds me of the beauty that is in Sophia. Sometimes I look at that single sunflower standing out there all alone and realize how much it is like Sophia. Sophia is carving out a world that is her very own while always finding the positive in life. What a special little girl I have.
• Also this week, I took time to sit and talk with Sophia about a book she is currently reading that I read it when I was her age. I am going to reread it tonight.
• I love when Alexander shares what happened in his recent game of XBOX and when he tells me how excited he is about the midnight release of Halo REACH this Monday night. Steve will be going with him to the release and then will come back to play the game into the wee hours of the night. I couldn't ask for a better father for my kids.
• And best of all, I stopped to enjoy the hugs that my kids still continue to want and give throughout the day. Whoever said teenagers are difficult never met my two.

What “bragging” do you have for the week? Any simple things you stopped to enjoy?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Not" Back To School Picnic and More Bragging

Today the kids and I celebrated another year of homeschooling at an annual NOT Back To School picnic.

Many friends have been posting pictures of their kid's first day of school on Facebook. This is our "NOT back to school" photo taken before leaving for the picnic.

Sophia on the zipline.

Alexander inside this awesome teepee built by the hosting family.

Sophia and a few friends.

Alexander and a few friends.

This is me sitting in the grass with my good friend Helen. (He-he, I am so proud of myself. No chair needed for these joints today. I absolutely love sitting on the ground.)

And yes, that is me on the zip-line!

Today I shared with some friends how absolutely wonderful I have felt lately. They know the struggle I have gone through and all that I have tried. It felt good sharing with them and knowing that they sincerely feel happy for me. Homeschooling has been good not only my kids, but also for me. I have met some of the best friends ever!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sorry, But I'm a Bragger Now!

Okay, I have more bragging to do today. I hope this doesn't get irritating, but as my strength gets stronger I am amazed at my own body.

Yesterday both kids were invited to a party which gave Steve and me some time for a bike ride alone. As we started off on the ride, I could tell my body was stronger than it was just a few weeks earlier on our ride. Everything felt easier. Yay for me!

As much as I love riding with our complete family, I also love having the chance to ride alone with Steve. It gives us a chance to really talk. As we finished our ride today I not only felt extremely proud of my own physical strength, but also felt reconnected with my husband.

The Law of Dharma

The Law of Dharma: Everyone has a purpose in life . . . a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.
~The Chopra Center Spiritual Law of the Day

Now that my body feels awesome, I thought it was time to focus on some personal goals. To get started, I signed up for The Chopra Center's 21 Day Meditation and really enjoyed that. I liked the questions we asked each day: Who Am I? What Do I Want? What is my Dharma? As I asked the questions of myself I began to feel that there are a few things in my life that have served others and myself that no longer nourish me. I get the feeling that it is time to move on to new things. What those new things are, I don't know yet, but I trust that I will when the time is right.

One thing that still works for me is teaching. It is something that feels right to me. School was always a struggle for me. I did okay, but it didn't come easy. The struggle I experienced as a student myself has given me my strength as a teacher, I believe. As my students struggle to learn new things themselves, I can easily relate to why they are struggling and I get excited as I challenge myself to come up with a variety of ideas to teach a concept. I often get feedback from students that I am "patient" and I "show lots of different ways to learn". I think that comes from struggling to learn myself.

Deepak Chopra often talks about finding our Dharma. How can we serve others? When I go to work, I love it! (I don't always like driving or leaving my family though) I think the reason I love it is because while serving others with my own individual gift, I am also serving myself.

Last night I met with two of my past students who have now graduated from the ESL program. For the last year we have tried to meet at least once a month for dinner and also talk through email and Facebook. They are good friends.

Kanya shared that besides working on her GED, she is working 60 hours a week, caring for her family, and started guitar lessons. Salvador brought a pretest he took in his "for credit" English class. He was disappointed with his 60% and wanted me to explain each of his incorrect answers because he is determined not to make the same mistakes. After we talked for a while, I pointed out to him that he is in a class with first language English speakers doing just as well as they are. Few people did any better than him on the test.

As I listened to the exciting things happening in their lives, I realized that although both of these amazing people are being led by their own determination, I played a very small part in their success. However small my part was or is, it feeds my spirit.

When Salvador arrived he commented that I look "younger". Kanya agreed. They started asking me what created the change. I told them that my diet has been very clean and that I started on medications. Salvador said, "Real drugs?" They both know the struggle I have gone through the last few years. I said, "Yes, I am back on drugs. What you see as looking 'younger' is you seeing me without pain for the first time."

I giggle at this picture because before we left I told them if I looked so "young" I needed to capture it in a photo. I tried taking it with my iPhone, but we couldn't see if we were all in the photo. I was laughing so hard because I was the only one ending up in the picture and they were teasing me. Finally, I looked around and saw a young woman who was cracking up at us trying to take the picture. Thankfully she came over and took it for us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


This morning I woke up and thought, "Tomorrow is Enbrel day." This thought no longer scares me, but excites me. As the inflammation continues to reduce in my body, I get this image of myself from the last several years as being like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. Mr. Burns is a frail, old man who struggles with basic physical tasks like crushing a paper cup or receiving a hug. When Wednesday comes around, I like thinking that tomorrow will be the day that I get "rejuvenated" and further away from being like Mr. Burns.

How has my life changed in the last six weeks?

• I can put all the dishes away, even those that are up high. (At 5'0 everything is high.)
• I carry full laundry baskets from the basement to our bedroom upstairs.
• I can get dressed and undressed easily.
• I can sit on the floor and get up by myself.
• I can ride my bike.
• I started doing my Pilate's DVD again. (Here I can feel where some inflammation still resides, but it is not enough that it hurts to keep working out.)
• I can easily walk Izzy two miles each morning.
• I have the energy to try new things in my ESL classroom and even took on another part time job.
• I don't crawl out of bed.
• I don't have to nap every day, although if I can, why not? You don't have to have chronic pain to appreciate the beauty of a good nap, right?

Of course I love all these changes. Who wouldn't? In six short weeks my physical body has made a 180 degree turn. There are times during the day that I move my body ever so slightly and think, "Wow that was easy." It reminds me of when my kids were little and every little thing was new to them. Moving without pain feels that way to me now, like everything is new and exciting.

What I am discovering as my physical body improves is that my mental mind has to reset itself into thinking as a physically capable person. You wouldn't think it would be difficult to adapt to your body feeling well, but just as it takes time to adjust to a body with limitations, it takes time for the mind to readjust to the body going in the opposite direction again.

Now that the pain has been removed, my brain is able to think of hundreds of different thoughts and feelings that for the last two or more years have been stagnate. I look around our house and see projects that were abandoned years ago and my mind starts figuring out ways to accomplish them. My daughter is coming to me more frequently for hugs, as if deep inside her she knows that now I can give her the full attention that she needs. I feel a new desire to spend time with my husband laughing with him rather than sharing stories of my pain. I am spending more time with my son on his "school work". I feel myself needing to break old habits that don't nourish me any longer. These are all wonderful things, but they take time and my mind feels over stimulated.

Living with chronic pain changes your spirit and it takes time for that spirit to readjust and remember who it is. A part of me doesn't feel like I have the same spirit I had before, which I think is good, but then another part wants to pick up right where I left off. It is difficult to explain. It isn't that I feel I need to accomplish everything at once, but that my mind is just over stimulated with all the possibilities and I don't know where to start. I feel that I have to rediscover who I am and what I really want to accomplish in life. This isn't a bad thing, it is just something that I didn't think about as dreamed about my physical body returning to its pain free state.