Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Simplest Things: Cleaning the Bathroom

I don't think a person can truly appreciate the wonderful feeling you can get from cleaning your bathroom until you aren't able to do it anymore.  The last few times I have cleaned the bathroom, it has been the deep cleaning where you finally get rid of stains in the tub and clean way behind the toilet.  For the last several years, I haven't been able to bend over long enough to clean behind the toilet due to my knees being too stiff/painful and my fingers have been too stiff to give the bathtub the cleaning it needed.  I am honestly glad to be cleaning the bathroom again.  I think my family is too!  :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Life is Good

This morning I spent some time rereading previous posts I have made on this blog.  As I read through many of them, I could feel the pain I felt at the time.  It brought tears to my eyes. As I read others, I felt the hope and relief that has come to me in the last several months.  Life is definitely getting easier. 

Two weeks ago I started a workout program with Steve that is pretty intense.  Although I am making a few changes here and there,  I am doing a pretty good job of keeping up.  In two weeks I can already feel a difference in my body.  It is stronger.  Weak joints are gaining strength.  It feels great to be working out with Steve and to be accomplishing so much physically.

I have finished two weeks of physical therapy.  I still have two weeks scheduled. It has helped the pain in my shoulder a lot.  I can't make a fist yet, but I am getting closer to that goal.  At first I didn't want to work these joints because it was uncomfortable, but now I find myself doing my exercises any time I sit idle.

My rheumatologist recommended focusing on "fatter" parts of my legs when giving my shots to avoid the rash I get after injection.  This hasn't eliminated the problem, but the rash is smaller and lasts for a shorter period.  One day I will try it in my stomach. She feels I will have good luck there.  I am so thankful that Enbrel is responding so well to my body.

Lots of good things are happening in my life.  I have recently given up some responsibilities that no longer nourish me.   One of these responsibilities was to my husband and was initially hard for me, but already I see how the change was good for both of us.  The other was giving up responsibilities for one of our homeschooling groups.  I thought this would be more difficult than it was.  This group has been "my baby" for several years.  I am super happy about the two moms that volunteered to take over responsibilities and feel excited that I can now put my energies into other activities for my kids while still enjoying the friendships we have made with this group. 

My new Monday/Wednesday ESL teaching gig involves team teaching with two other gals.  I haven't team taught since I taught elementary school.  I really enjoy it.  I came in during the middle of the semester and both gals have been more than welcoming to me.  I believe that my teaching abilities will be brought to a new level due to their influences.

My life just gets better and better and also busier and busier.  I am not one that enjoys a busy life.  However, I feel that with all the new things, I am giving up some old and the new things are going to bring joy to all four of us in the long run.  I am glad my body is able to handle all that it is being asked to do.  I am glad to be doing things again.  Life is good for Cateepoo!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Changing, Growing and Always Learning

"We're always perfect, always beautiful, and ever-changing. We're doing the best we can with the understanding, knowledge, and awareness we have. As we grow and change more and more, our 'best' will only get better and better." —Louise L. Hay, from Experience Your Good Now!

I love how life and its lessons keep building on each other allowing us to learn just what we need at the time, and then learning a bit more, until we finally find a place that feels right with who we are.

For the last eight years I have been adapting my diet, trying to get it closer to what works best for my individual body and closer to a philosophy of eating that feels right to me.  Each step along the way has prepared me for the next step of where I need to be.   

Weston A. Price:  I learned about WAP about eight years ago from a friend who purchased the book Nourishing Traditions.  This was my first big change in diet and also the first time I began thinking about my beliefs about food.  I began making my own kefir, soaking grains, and drinking whole raw milk.  A year later I would be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and stop all use of gluten and dairy.  However, I took some wonderful beliefs with me from WAP like buying grass fed meat and free range eggs from farmers I trust and know. Also, I learned about eating good fats like coconut oil, coconut milk, real butter and fish oil.  It was at this time that I learned about Vitamin D and began questioning the politics and motives of drug companies. 

Elimination Diet:  My diet was completely changed again in November 2004 when I saw my naturopath for the first time and she put me on an elimination diet to see if we could calm the inflammation with changes to my diet.  I cut coffee (the most difficult for me to give up), gluten, dairy, citrus, nightshades, peanuts and sugar.  Within two months of going on the diet my inflammation rates were back within normal and within a year I was in remission.

Gluten/Dairy Free Diet:  Once I was in remission, I stayed on a gluten/dairy free diet but unfortunately added many other things back to my diet. Sugar was the biggest mistake. I began baking a lot of gluten free muffins and cakes.  Although I reduced the sugar content for these baked goods, they were back in my diet along with many new grains.  I know for certain that sugar affects my body and I am pretty sure that even gluten free grains affect my body.

Body Ecology Diet:  In September of 2009 I went on the Body Ecology Diet.  This diet took many of the things I learned about nutrition from WAP and my naturopath, but refined it even more.  My intake of foods prepared outside my home became less and less.  I eliminated many gluten free grains and consumed a lot more veggies than ever in my past.  Although my rheumatoid arthritis inflammation continued to grow, the diet helped other health issues I was experiencing.

Paleo Diet:  About two months ago I started the Paleo Diet.  I have been encouraged by many friends and readers that perhaps my next step in health was to reduce/eliminate my intake of all grains.  I have recently been thinking that the increase in "gluten free" grains and sugar during remission may have been what helped me move out of remission.  Maybe I am just not one that can handle grains. 

This diet philisophy makes sense to me and feels like the next step on my path to health.  I was already eating good fats (coconut oil, coconut milk, nuts, avacodos, etc), I had eliminated "gluten" grains, I had stopped all dairy and even at times eliminated nightshades and sugar. With the Paleo diet I continue to eat the good fats that have become a part of my daily routine as well as lots and lots of organic veggies.  I also continue to eat grassfed meat from farmers I trust.  What I have added to the mix is a total elimination of legumes and grains, gluten or not.  I like this diet.  I find that I am not bloated, and I am rarely hungry because the foods I prepare are filling.

The diet changes I have made in the last eight or so years have been about more than just looking great naked or clothed (although that is definitely a plus, right?), and more about creating healthier foods for my  family and myself.  Of course rheumatoid arthritis has played a HUGE part in my diet decisions.  But, over the years my reasons to choose healthier diets and continue to keep learning has evolved past just having a healthy family.  It feels right to support farmers who are creating a good environment for the food we eat, to support farmers who like me believe that we should eat fruits and veggies that come without pesticides, to teach my children that food can be their friend or enemy, to prevent additional disease for myself and family, to preserve the environment, and much more.  I have also learned that food is very political and what you eat has to match your individual beliefs. 

I have been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts by Robb Wolf of Paleo Solutions.  He talks a lot about autoimmune diseases and the effect food plays on our inflammation.  I don't know if the diet is helping my inflammation since I am now on medications for the inflammation, but if eating a clean diet helps my medications to work better in a clean body, than that is a bonus.  Plus, I just love the food I have been preparing AND eating this way makes maintaining my weight a cinch.  I recently discovered a great blog with recipes that work for real families.  As I play around with new recipes that supply my family with nutrious foods, it feels good. It feels like it matches both my body type and my philosophy of food.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Experiences Over Possessions"

My birthday was last Friday. As my birthday got closer, the kids asked what I wanted for my birthday and one day after a walk I made a list of three or four things that I would like to have as gifts. I felt good about the list I made as they were all wants, but also needs. I don't mind those kind of gifts at all. I thought all was settled and I would be able to pass my list along and see what happened.  Then I remembered a philosophy that my friend Hannah often shares on her blog. She says, "I have always valued experiences over possessions." I love reading her blog because she does have wonderful experiences and I have always admired her philosophy. I don't think I have ever been a person that is all about possessions, although of course I do like some of them, but I have never really concentrated enough on the experiences. Sure, my kids are unschoolers which is based upon the idea of the experiences of life being their teacher, but I often put worry with my own personal experiences. Will we have enough money? Is the money used worth the experience? Is it taking away from what others want?

After thinking on what I really want for my birthday, I decided that I want the experience over the possession. So instead of a list of "birthday wants", I told my family I want a day with them either bike riding in a new area (Steve has a place in Wisconsin he wants to take us now that I am riding again) or hiking at Starved Rock so Izzy could join us. Also, I asked that if they really want to give me something, I would prefer homemade cards or gifts. The decision to not have any purchased gifts came from a discussion that Sophia and I had a few weeks back. We talked about how when we think back to the previous year, we often can't remember a lot of the gifts we received for Christmas or birthdays. However, the gifts made by others that we have in our house are always treasured. Alexander and Sophia have always been great at making gifts for me and they always come with fond memories.

After a super busy day on Friday and again on Saturday, we headed to Starved Rock on Sunday.  When we arrived, the experience I had in my head was different than the one I was experiencing in real life.  In July, we went to Starved Rock with my sister and her boys and the day was relaxed with few people.  Of course, it was a humid summer weekday rather than a perfect fall Sunday.  There were TONS of people at Starved Rock.  At first, I felt overwhelmed.  We brought Izzy with us as I had planned to do. The paths are narrow and she easily gets excited by other dogs and people.  I wondered if we should go home and prevent a stressful day. 

We stayed.  Steve volunteered to walk Izzy and keep her close. She did such a great job.  She tends to try to walk next to me no matter who is walking her.  She was so cute.  If I was ahead of her, she would pull hard on the leash to catch up with me .  If I was behind her, she kept stopping to make sure I was still there.  She is a ":momma's girl".  I like that about her.  She did a super job and seemed to enjoy all the new smells.

The day was nice.  I enjoyed the sunshine, nature, and mostly relaxing with my family.  It was a perfect gift. 

Tuesday was the last day of classes for this quad.  One of the gals that always arrives before me was late to class.  When she arrived she had a big bouquet of flowers in her hands and everyone stood up and started singing “Happy Birthday” to me.  Then we had the usual last day celebration which means lots of homemade Mexican food!   After we finished the food they pulled out two big cakes from a bakery.  One was to eat in class and the other was to take home and share with my family.  They turned out the lights, lit a candle, and sang to me again.  Then they lined up and each one gave me a birthday hug.  They are so sweet!  I felt very special.  This experience is one that I won't forget easily.  

A special thanks to my mom and dad for bringing me into this world, providing lots of great experiences, and loving me for 43 years! 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Naturally Happy Being Me!

Recently, I have been having some fun creating a new blog.  The new blog, Naturally Happy Being Me, focuses on one or two simple things each day that made me happy. 

Several years ago I saw an alternative practitioner.  She said she went to a seminar and they asked each participant to keep track of each time they had a negative thought.  She was surprised at how often she had negative thoughts.  I think it is true for all of us.  I catch myself often thinking negative things about situations I am, people or even myself. 

I believe I have always been a positive thinker overall, but I have found that one of my best defenses against rheumatoid arthritis pain is thinking positive things.  When I think positive it instantly brings an overall better feel to me.  So, this new blog has been kind of fun.  I have enjoyed finding one or two simple things to share that make me happy each day. I hope you enjoy it too!

To all my friends in pain today, I am also sending out extra healing thoughts.  I know the healing thoughts you send to me bring great rewards. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Step by Step

"Healing occurs in tiny increments. Though it often seems abrupt, seasons change incrementally from warm to cold and back to warm. In tiny increments the Earth moves until one day we'll notice the days growing longer and tiny green buds are on the tree outside your window. Changes happen so slowly that we don't even notice them. Step by Step is the principle that deals with time. It takes time to heal."

I read this today on Donna Gates, Body Ecology Diet, Facebook status.  I loved it and wanted to share it!

I hope today is a good day for you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Crazy Few Days

The last few days have been a bit crazy.  Here is some background information: I started a part-time tutoring job about two months ago.  I have been tutoring reading to a 15 year old teenage girl and a 10 year old girl.  I really enjoy both of them.  What I don't enjoy is that the tutoring sessions are two hours each.  Two hours for anyone is long, but especially for two girls that have been in school all day.  The first hour we do okay, but by the second hour they give up and tell me they can't do it or get extremely giggly.  I get it.  It feels wrong to me too.  But, I ran into a bigger problem than feeling worn down after two hours, I wasn't getting paid.  The company I worked for kept giving me excuses as to why they couldn't pay me.  So, feeling foolish for continuing on this long, I quit on Thursday morning.  They emailed and called asking me to reconsider, but there were too many holes in the stories.  Something wacky is going on and I don't feel like I need to be in the middle of it.  I feel good about my decision.  I did have a call yesterday from one of the moms to let me know how happy they were with me and how sad they were that I wouldn't be working with their daughter.  It is nice to feel appreciated.

Thursday night after dealing with this company all day and feeling wiped out, I finished teaching my adult ESL class and did a quick check of my emails from my iphone.  Guess what?  A job I applied for in the summer and have been busy gathering paperwork for was approved by the Illinois Board of Education.  I am going in this morning to sign the paperwork and I start Monday night.  How perfect is that?  It felt like my decision to quit couldn't have been better.

This will be the most hours I have worked since Alexander was born fourteen years ago.  I am still part time.  I will work my current job on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a total of 12 hours and then Monday and Wednesday nights with a total of ten hours.  Plus, I will have homeschooling stuff/family life during the day all week.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  But, I have some good things in my corner.  My health has improved a lot (minus my right foot that is reminding me that RA is still a part of me) plus Alexander and Sophia are about the two most responsible people in the world.  When I am at work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, they take care of cleaning the kitchen, making lunches, dog sitting jobs they have and any other responsibilities while I am at work.  That way we can either go to homeschool group on Tuesdays or do "school" stuff on Thursdays between my work schedule.  Also, they have started making more dinners.  I just need to replace my crock pot now!  Knowing I have such responsible kids at home and a supportive husband will make this transition a lot smoother.

Overall, I am excited.  It will be a new experience for me.  I am looking forward to it.  I am also looking forward to working on some financial goals Steve and I have set for ourselves.  If we can reach these goals, wonderful new things will be in our future!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Appreciating Life

Last night the writing class I teach turned into a conversation class.  We spent most of the evening talking rather than writing.  (I am just going to consider it part of the prewriting stage.)  For some reason we got on the subject of accidents.  One student, a beautiful young gal in her early thirties told about a severe car accident that left her in physical therapy for over a year.  As she wrapped up the story she had a big smile, as she always does, and said it wasn't a bad thing because now she appreciates life so much more.

I just sat gazing at my student as she finished her story.  I wanted to totally absorb her attitude and make sure it had a permanent place in my memory.   I have experienced a rough couple of years with rheumatoid arthritis, and like my student, I feel it hasn't been a bad thing.  No matter what life throws at us, there is always good surrounding us.  There is always something new to look forward to. 

Enjoy your day!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Appointment Went Well!

On Friday I met with my rheumatologist.  It was a good appointment.  I am super glad I changed rheumatologists when I went back on medications.  She is very thorough in her exams and doesn't believe in  staying on anything that isn't necessary. 

We reviewed my lab work and according to her everything looks "ridiculously good" except that my white blood cells have dropped a little so she will monitor those guys.   She was happy to see the progress I am making with Enbrel and said if things continue as they are that we will reduce methotrexate at the next appointment.  Yay!  She does have some concerns though that there is still swelling in my knuckles and that I can't make a fist with either hand yet.  Her recommendation is to start physical therapy.  I think that is a great idea.  I actually have been surprised it was never recommended before - she was too!  I start on Monday.