Thursday, June 30, 2011

HealKick: A Social Network for Young Adults

I recently learned about a new social network designed for young adults living with illness.  Although I am too old at 43, I hope it will be beneficial to others.

HealKick is a social network for young adults in their 20's and 30's with neuro-immune illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyaliga, CFS/ME, Chronic Lyme Disease, Lupus and many others. The site not only brings together people with similar illnesses like a support group does, but it brings together people in the same stage of life. This combination is truly unique and allows for amazing connections and friendships to be formed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Slow Down

This makes me smile.  Just over a year ago, I was the slowest member of our family.  Everyone walked at a snail's pace so that they wouldn't pass me by and we could walk together.  I know it was hard for everyone and I love them for willingly staying with me. Over the weekend my husband joined my border collie and I on our walk but first asked, "Are you going to walk with me?"  He asked that because now that I am in remission (I am not sure if I am technically in remission, but I feel like I am.),  Izzy and I walk at a very fast pace and I forget to slow down when Steve is walking with us.  I love that I am now being asked to slow down my walking.  I seriously never thought this day would come.

Barefoot Walking: My Feet Agree with the Changes

When I officially started my barefoot walking adventures in April, I wondered if my feet would start to look rough and unattractive with time. I have known some folks who naturally go barefoot a lot and I wasn't sure I wanted my feet to look like their feet. Great news! My feet aren't unattractive. In fact, I find myself looking at my feet a lot and admiring the small changes they are making.

Since I have been wearing my Five Fingers or going completely barefoot on my longs walks, at home, and even when driving, the corns on my toes have calmed down and even seem to be going away. Can this be possible? Yes, it is!

The bottoms of my feet are getting tough. However, that doesn't mean they look dry and unhealthy. I think diet plays a big part in dry feet. I eat a lot of good fats and Omega 3's which may help in keeping my feet from drying out even as they are in the beginning stages of growing a thicker bottom. Also, after washing them, I give them a little massage in coconut oil. (I do of course have to stay away from my border collie Izzy for a while, otherwise she wants to lick all of the coconut oil off my feet, even though I always give her some for waiting patiently while I massage it into my feet.)

My feet are getting strong. I don't know why I didn't expect this consequence of walking barefoot, but it is true. I can noticably tell that my feet are getting stronger and just like when the rest of your body gets stronger from working out, they look more attractive. (My pretty red toe polish helps too of course!)

Although this doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the attractiveness of my feet, I do like listening to my body and I feel that barefoot walking helps me to listen to my body in new ways. When I slip my Five Fingers off during a walk, I notice that I turn my right foot in a bit towards the side of my big toe. The side of that big toe is actually hardening up more so than the rest of my foot. I know I am turning it in because of the two toes on that foot that hurt. I am not sure if it is rheumatoid arthritis related or not since it hurts differently than pain I have experienced in my feet in the past. These two toes tingle and a sharp pain shoots through the toes. It almost feels like the pain is stemming from some inflammation in my ankle, so maybe it is related to RA. I have no idea. The tingling pain started over the winter months when I was wearing boots and clogs. It hasn't improved with going barefoot so I really need to have it checked out. But my point is that by barefoot walking, I am more aware of how my feet are being used and I like that.
I keep finding many advantages to going barefoot besides attractive feet developing and the ability to continue listening to my body in new ways. I also like the freedom of walking out of the house without shoes and socks. I like feeling the grass between my toes and I like walking through water puddles. I like being aware of the temperature of the day under my feet. I like my body being able to connect with the earth through my feet. Barefoot walking just feels right to me and the small changes my feet are making tells me that my feet agree.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Best Friend

My body is my best friend.

Odd? The woman with RA and fibromyalgia, wheelchair user since the age of 16, the one who lives with high levels of chronic pain and disability and I could keep this going for a little while, but that would get boring and prevent me from getting to the point. So yes. That woman. Me. I consider my body my best friend. 

 To read more of this post, go to The Seated View where Lene writes about her best friend, her body.  This is a beautifully written post that should be read by all.  Thank you Lene for this wonderful reminder of just how special our bodies are to us. 

You Know You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis When....

If you haven't already checked out RA Guy's post today "You Know You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis When...", head on over and add your comment.  I know I will be back there several times over the next few days to read comments.  Already today I had to chuckle at a few that totally hit home with me.

Rules of Writing Learned, But Not Taught

I find it very interesting how my 13 year old daughter will stand over my shoulder when I am typing emails or instant messaging and correct my spelling and punctuation. As an unschooler who has always followed a child led education, she has never had one lesson on spelling or punctuation in her life, but is an excellent speller and knows exactly where and when to use punctuation.  (More so than mom I guess.)  Unschooling really does work. Trust your kids to learn and amazing things do happen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Getting Back on the Bicycle

We all have activities we enjoy doing in life and when rheumatoid arthritis comes knocking at our door, there is a huge fear of it taking away those very activities that we love. For me, bike riding is the thing I love doing. During the worst of times with my rheumatoid arthritis, I was willing to give up a lot of other things, but not my bike riding. I tried riding when my knees were swollen and sore, I tried riding when my fingers could barely grasp the brakes, and I rode when my shoulders were stiff and hollered in pain. Why? It was just one thing I could not give up easily.

What is the one activity that you have a difficult time giving up? What gives you hope for a brighter future?

To read the complete story of getting back on my bicycle, go to MyRACentral.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


This is my first Father's Day without my dad.  He is no longer here for me to call and wish him a happy day.  Although we never made a big deal about Father's Day, as we grew up believing that each day was a day to be treasured, I do find the passing of my dad very fresh today. 

As I look at the photo of him sitting on my desk, I can see his eyes looking back at me.  I can feel his arms around me giving me one of his famous hugs, and I know I am lucky.  I know that my dad is deep in my heart and with me in each decision I make in life.  His love is still strong, yet I miss him so much.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Paleo Eating

Last night the lesson with my adult ESL students was on adverbs of frequency: always, usually, sometimes, rarely, and never.  I was giving examples of each using food.  I said I "rarely" eat turkey because I don't like it, I "sometimes" eat chicken and fish, and I "usually" eat red meat.  Immediately several students said, "Teacher, red meat is bad for you."  I listened to their concerns and continued on telling them that I "always" eat vegetables with dinner.  Hearing that I "always" eat vegetables with dinner calmed their concerns.  One student said, "Teacher, that is why you look so healthy."  That comment made me feel so good.  I am glad that the foods I eat make me look healthy because when I eat paleo (lots of grassfed meat, free range eggs, variety of veggies, good fats, and a little fruit) I feel healthy.  I not only feel full with the foods I feed myself, but more importantly, I feel nourished when I eat.  

With every group of students we discuss food, especially meat.  I find it interesting that students from all over the world eat more of the animal than most Americans.  Last night in class, several students encouraged me to give tongue, brains, and even blood a try!  Yikes. I eat paleo, but I am not sure I am ready for that.  I do have a pound of chicken livers in my freezer that I intend to experiment with in a liver spread soon.  This will be a huge step for me in the organ eating department, but Alexander said he is willing to try it with me.  Although not an organ meat, last week we both ate sardines for the first time with bones.  Yummy!  No wonder Izzy always goes crazy when I feed them to her.  They taste better than they smell.  She also goes crazy when I feed her liver, so maybe there is a chance I will love it too. 

What about you?  Do you eat organ meats?  If so, do you have a favorite recipe?  Also, how frequently do you eat them?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unschooling My Job

I have never had a passion for grammar. In fact, I find it extremely boring. I felt the same way when I was in school and remember dreading the times we would study grammar exclusively. As a 5th grade teacher I never taught grammar on its own, but instead took problem areas my students were facing in their writing and focused on those issues instead in mini lessons. I now teach English to adult students from all over the world who are learning English. For the past ten years when I have taught grammar to adults, it has only been a portion of what I teach, so I haven't minded because I love teaching conversation, writing, and listening. However, in October I added a teaching position to my resume at a new school. At this school I am exclusively the grammar teacher. My students come to me for grammar and go to another teacher for projects.

The first few months I felt very frustrated because the students at this school are also at a higher English level than the students at my first school which meant I needed to know more grammar rules than I previously knew. I didn't feel like I was doing a good job teaching and felt awkward. Then it hit me. It isn't about me knowing everything about grammar because I will never be one to remember the rules. It doesn't fit my personality at all. Some people love rules, not me. What I decided to do was use the same philosophy of learning on my students as I do with my kids - if you want to learn this, than do it!  I will help guide you, but really, it is up to you. I started putting students in groups and they had to figure out the grammar lesson for the day and then report back to the class on their findings. They loved it! They asked questions here and there but overall they were perfectly fine working in groups and figuring out what they needed to learn. In fact, I think they may learn it better when working together and they have fun at the same time. Who wants to sit and listen to me talk at the board all evening? Yuck!  The other benefit I found from allowing them to work in groups is I could access quicker what they already knew so we didn't need to spend a ton of time on that piece of grammar.  We could move on or stay longer on if needed.

My recent experience as a teacher has reminded me of a couple of good things I have learned through unschooling my own kids. First, if we really want to learn something, we will. Second, I finally understand my learning style and although some people thrive on knowing all the rules to grammar, I will never be that person. Why keep trying to be something I am not? This has been the number one lesson I have learned by unschooling my kids.  Third, I can only be the type of person I am and when I follow who I am rather than try to fit the mold of what others do (generally grammar is more lecture than experimentation and I have never been that type of teacher) things turn out exactly the way they should.

I find that although I still don't love grammar, I have found a comfortable place for myself. At midterm the student evaluations of me were really high which tells me they like the way I am doing things. Finding my comfort zone makes going to work that much easier and that much more enjoyable.

When people ask me about unschooling, I often say we follow a child led education learning from life. In this situation, that is exactly what I did. Unschooling doesn't just exist within the confines of our home or just for my children. We are all constantly learning and constantly trying to figure out the best route for our unique personalities. I am glad I unschooled my way through this situation

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I have set my blog up on Facebook.  You can now follow me there if you are interested.  

Also, I am not sure why but I can't leave comments on several Blogger blogs. For some reason I get booted out of my account when I try to comment on some blogs while others always work fine. I need to have Steve sit down with me and figure it out. So, if I haven't commented on your blog in a while, it isn't because I don't love you, it is because I keep getting kicked out of my account.

With Maturity New Interests Come

Alexander turned 15 in May.  As he has matured over the last few years, his interests have changed.  Where he once spent hours upon hours playing video games and Legos, I don't see him sitting in front of the XBOX quite as often and he recently packed up all of his Lego's.

With maturity new interests come.  There is the computer of course, with Facebook and YouTube, but I see him needing more.  He likes having a book to read that makes him think and often takes it with him in case he gets bored.  Sophia and I were giving him a hard time on Friday when he brought a book with him to the horse races.  In between races he sat and read.  Besides books and YouTube videos that support the ideas he is searching for, he also needs to meet people that challenge his mind.  He is beginning to branch out to new people and new situations without any hesitation. 

I recently took him to a group we found on a meet up site.  The group is made up of all adults who came together at a restaurant to talk about politics, the economy, education, religion, and more.  He loved it despite the fact that he was the only teen!  Actually he felt more comfortable than me because these are the topics that interest him, not me.

I had to laugh the other day because I needed to attend a work meeting that was an hour drive away.  In all I was gone about four hours.  While I was gone, he did some research online.  The minute I walked through the door he bombarded me with questions and information he had gathered.  I had to stop him and tell him I was on overload.  My brain was tired and honestly could not keep up with everything he was sharing.  He has so many questions about the Constitution, governments around the world, decisions that have been made by our world leaders, science, etc, etc.  It is amazing how his mind just never stops.

This week he has been outside doing some woodwork.  We are painting his room in July and he is creating some new pieces for his room.  He has also been cleaning out his room getting rid of things he has held onto for years.  You can see the excitement in him as he rids himself of who he was and embraces his new, more mature self. 

For me, it is really exciting and strangely as he gets older and needs more outside influence, I don't feel he needs me any less.  He still needs me to be a springboard for his ideas even when he knows a ton more than I do on the topic.  He still needs me to be his supporter in meeting people that reflect who he is right now, and he still needs me to guide him in how to find a variety of people and resources that will feed his needs to learn.  I shared with another mom that other day that I have recently felt that I need to be home more for my kids.  I teach 18-22 hours, but suddenly it seems like too much.  It seems like I need to be home for the moments that my kids need me because now that they are teens, those moments of needing me are more sporadic.  When and how both Alexander and Sophia need me varies with each day and being away from home doesn't allow us the spontaneity of when you are home all the time.   My summer break from teaching will come at the end of June.  I am looking forward to it and the time I have watching my kids grow and mature!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

23 Years

The other day Alexander and I were talking about expectations of others vs. following your heart.  I shared how when I was 20 and his dad was 21, we got married.  Many people felt we were too young and weren't afraid to share the expectations that we should date longer, we should have more experiences, and we should finish college first.  Getting married and being together felt completely right for us.  It didn't prevent us from having new experiences, we just had those new ones together.  And it didn't prevent us from graduating from college.  I told Alexander it was the right choice for us, even though when I look at 20 and 21 years old adults now they seem so young.  I told Alexander that I know it was right for us because after 23 years of married life, I still feel excited when my husband walks through the door at night.  I still feel like I am married to my best friend.  After 23 years together, I am still married to the love of my life.

Steve told me once that when people ask him what it is like to be married to the same person for this long he says, "it is like being married to ten different people."  I laughed because it is so true.  Although our core being is probably very similar to who we were when we got married, we have both grown and changed so much in 23 years.  Our secret seems to be that we have been able to grow and change together.  It hasn't always been easy and I am often reminded of a card we received at our wedding from an older couple that has been married for over 50 years now, "marriage is work".  It is true.  At times it takes a lot of work remembering not to take each other for granted, remembering the other one has different feelings and thoughts than you do, and remembering that everything isn't just about you.  The fun part is that if you continue to share and learn about each other, you learn to know what to expect in the other one and then all of the sudden they surprise you and you learn something new about that person.  It is fun. 

So as we celebrate our 23rd anniversary today with seven teenagers (two of our own and five who are coming for Sophia's birthday party), I am glad that after all these years and "being ten different people" that my husband still loves me and enjoys being with me.  I am truly a lucky to be me!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Barefoot Walking: Treating My Feet Like I Do My Hands

As you can tell from many of my recent posts, I am a little obsessed with barefoot/Five Fingers walking.  Yesterday for the first time I made it completely barefoot for my entire walk with Izzy which is just a little short of two miles.  I had my Vibram Five Fingers with me, ready to put them on whenever my feet gave any indication they were ready for them, but they never did.  They seemed quite content being naked.  However, when I got home and washed them, I realized they were a little beaten up and there was a slight burning feeling. 

What occurred to me as I checked out my feet is that we have very different expectations for our feet than we do hands.  Every spring when my kids were younger, their hands would get torn up as we headed to the park for the first time in the season and they hung from the monkey bars.  I would always say, "Yep, it takes time to toughen them up."  I never discouraged them to stop hanging from the bars because their hands might get hurt.  Whenever my husband takes a break from playing guitar, his fingers also get a little sore and cut up.  He always says, "It takes a little time to callous them over."  When I work in the yard, (which is rare) I often end up with cuts on my hands because I feel I do better work without gloves.  We don't seem to worry too much about our hands because we know they will be fine.  We are used to them going through this process of getting hurt.  We are used to them getting paper cuts, knife cuts in the kitchen, stubbed, and even dirty.  But when it comes to our feet, we treat them like royalty.  We are afraid of any little cut, except those that come with wearing new shoes of course.  I have seen parents that react to kids without shoes on as if they are about to run out in front of a moving car.  We are constantly worried about keeping them clean and for many people, there is a total aversion to seeing bare feet. (One of my students takes his flip flops off as soon as he sits down.  He always looks so comfortable.  It makes me envious.)

Today I started off in my Vibram Five Fingers rather than putting them on when my feet were ready just to make sure I didn't harm my precious feet. About half way through the walk I took them off as my feet were hollering to be free!  When I got home, they were of course dirty (although not as dirty as I would have imagined) and I washed them.  Other than that, they are completely fine!  They don't burn today and the torn skin doesn't seem to have increased at all.  In fact, the bottoms of my feet seem a little tougher.  The body, every part of it, really is amazing when we give it a chance to show its strength.

"Good-bye" Worries of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Welcome Summer!

Summer, it is almost here. There are so many things I love about summer. I love lying in the sun for hours. I love the carefree feeling of wearing shorts, sundresses, and sandals and finally packing away the layers of clothes I have worn for too many months. I love the "vacation" attitude people seem to adopt during the summer months. Everything just feels easier and freer.

Unfortunately, summer also brings a feeling of trepidation. In the past, warm weather has meant my once swollen knee would be exposed. It meant getting into the pool with my kids would be a struggle as my joints found each step into the pool to be painful or just not a possibility. In the past it meant once my feet hit the cool water, they would tense up. Summer in the past also was a reminder of the things I wasn't able to easily do any more such as long bike rides with my family, hikes, plopping down in the sand, exploring, and much more. To read more, visit my contributing post at MyRACentral.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gifts from Two of the Men in My Life

I have heard it said that we choose husbands that are similar to our dads. Although my husband of 23 years (as of June 11), is different than my dad in many ways, they have a few very important things in common. First, they have both loved me for who I am no matter what decisions I have made in life and second, they have both taught me to listen to my heart and follow what feels right for me.    

Growing up, my dad was always my "go to" person when I was sad or had difficult decisions to make in life.  When I shared secrets with him, he never made me feel guilty for the choices I made.  He would often just hold me and let me cry it out or lead me through some questions that made me think rather than giving me advice on what I should do.  He always reminded me that only I knew the answer that was right for me.  This has been a very important lesson for me throughout my life and one I hope I am transferring over to my own kids. 

My husband Steve has seen me through my best and worst days.  Through our 23 years together, we have experienced more "ups" than "downs" I think.  But, during the "down" times, he has shown me a strength and love that has made me love him more than I could have ever imagined.  Really, he is the stronger one of the two of us.  His heart is kinder than mine and I continue to learn a lot from him each and every day.

One of the greatest gifts my husband has given me is the gift of listening to my heart when it comes to our children. When I was pregnant I read a ton of books on pregnancy and childbirth.  Then I moved on to books about raising your kids.  Plus, I had lots of advice from family and friends.  I thought I had it all figured out. 

When Alexander was born, I tried listening to what the books and people said about sleeping arrangements with a baby.  I tried putting him in the cradle next to our bed and I tried waking up in the middle of the night to nurse him in a rocking chair.  It never felt right.  I liked having his body close to mine as frequently as possible.    One night when I was in a foul mood and woke up to nurse Alexander, Steve said, "Why don't you just sleep with him? When he is in bed with you, both of you sleep."

I remember vividly the first night all three of us went to bed together.  I briefly woke to latch Alexander on for nursing several times throughout the night but then fell right back to sleep.  There were no more nights of sleeping in a rocking chair as I tried to get him back to sleep.  There were no more nights of my heart feeling empty because he wasn't close to me.  The best thing, we all woke up next to each other and the two of us spent time cooing over our little guy.  What a great way to start a day!  I knew that first night that this was the direction my heart was pulling me.  This was the right decision for my family and I was so thankful to my husband for leading me down this road.

We continued to practice attachment parenting, following our hearts and raising kids that are out of this world wonderful!  Sometimes it has been hard for Steve I think because the kids have often come first.  I devote a lot of time to them which means he doesn't always get a lot of attention.  He has always understood that yet, he also is good at letting me know when the time has come that he needs some attention too.  I am glad for that because I would never want to lose the connection we have.

My kids are my contribution to this world.  The love that I can pour into them now is the love that they will pour back out into this world.  What I love about my husband is that he supports each and every parenting decision that I make and he keeps me grounded when I feel confused.  He guides me to make good decisions that make my masterpieces, my children, that much more wonderful! He encourages me to follow my heart and be the person that I am meant to be. 

I know I am a lucky woman to have had two amazing men in my life that love me for who I am not matter what.  I am lucky that the man I married is similar to my dad in that they have both loved me unconditionally.  The only thing either one has asked of me is to love them back.  So, I am glad that I chose a man to spend my life with that has the core similarities as my dad.  Thank you Dad for giving me a high standard to look for in life. Thank you Steve for being my source of strength and love.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis & Life: Learning to Accept Change and Let Go of the Past

Life is full of change. Change is scary. Change is hard. It often feels easier to stay where we are in life than accept the change that is occurring. However, life always has other plans for us and throws us situations that create change whether we want it or not. The problem is often not in the change, but in "letting go" of what was and embracing what is now.

In April, life brought a huge change to my life. My dad passed away. This has left a huge empty whole in my spirit. Although I can only think of beautiful memories when I think of my dad, his death feels wrong. It feels as if one of the most beautiful gifts ever given to me has been taken away and life will never seem quite as good. I don't want this change. I want to hold onto my dad and put things back to the way they were before.

As I have reflected on the end of my dad's life, I have realized that many of the feelings I am experiencing are very similar to the feelings I have experienced off and on the last seven and a half years of living with rheumatoid arthritis. It has felt wrong. It has felt like the beautiful gifts life has given me were being taken away. It has felt wrong.

To read more, visit my contributing post at MyRACentral.