Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Happy Tool Kit...Our Christmas Tradition...The Blue Moon

Lives drenched in traditions are fulfilled lives.  Traditions not only give us a sense of security but they also can enrich our lives in unmeasurable ways.  Some traditions unfold like new blossoms in the spring, arising out of a newly planted location while others are carried with us from place to place.  This tradition was founded for our family during our first year living here in Wilmington.  Now we make our yearly pilgrimage to The Blue Moon as the beginning of the countdown to Christmas.

On this day, the Blue Moon opened its doors to shoppers early.  We were invited to explore a wonderful array of artistic jewelry, lovely handmade goods and some of the best goodies known to NC.

And as hoped, my spirit was uplifted and I couldn't help but smile at the whimsy of it all...

OK, can you guess which is my favorite sock monkey?

Have you ever seen a dancing Christmas reindeer?

Did you know that this is my favorite time of the year! And what about you, do you have a tradition to kick off this holiday season?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

May your Thanksgiving Day be filled with love, family, friends and of course...lots of turkey.  And least we not forget, pumpkin pie!  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Over the River(Thanksgiving Day) 
Over the river and through the wood
To Grandmother's house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah forThanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow~
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood~
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

By Linda Maria Child 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How to Play with RA

I am doing my tap dance of joy (you do realize by now that this tap dance is in my head of course) because I will have my grand baby with us for Turkey Day! Woohoo!

This got me to thinking. There is smoke rising from my brain right now as I begin to think of things I can do with my 2 1/2 year old cutie.  And I wanted to share with you how I will adapt to play with my ra.

Cranking up the brainstorming gears, I decided that first I need to get some toys that I also love as this will help encourage me to play with her but will allow my mind to wonder in joy and excitement. And being that times are economically challenging for the best of us, I decided to try and hit some second hand stores and yard sales.  I am also blessed in that a very close friend of mine has been hunting for me as well and she brought down the mother load of toys (thank you Cathy)!  I have found several toys that I know both Isabel and I will grow to love (I am definitely a kid at heart).

My strategies to make playing easier for me include:

Playing on our living room coffee table. This    way I can sit on the couch while she sits on the floor.  Using our dinning room table as much as possible for activities like playdough, coloring and puzzle time.   Planning any outings earlier in the daytime when my energy seems to be a bit better and ensuring I have plenty of pain medication on hand. I don't plan on doing the driving but rather having my son drive. I have the Children's Museum on our hit list and a local zoo for another morning outing. At the Children's Museum I can sit and watch her play through the various rooms and the local zoo is a small zoo which is much more ra friendly than a large zoo.

I have prepared our camping chairs and I intend to keep one in their car (our camping chairs can be folded up and carried over a shoulder so I have ready seating when I am tuckered out) and one ready for outside play. Did I hear someone say bubbles and chalk art on our driveway!
And I have bought several dvds and books (I just discovered this wonderful series called Fancy Nancy) for those times when my ra keeps me couch bound. I am an avid fan of Disney dvds.
And last, I am planning a girls lunch at Chuck-e-Cheese. This place is a self contained play zone, music entertainment, and pizza joint all in one. She has never been to one yet and I am happy to have her do another first with us.

Now from the pics, can you tell which baby doll is mine? And although my children didn't have The Littlest Pet Shop, I am sooooo looking forward to my playtime with them and My Little Pony.  And yes, of course, I did get a few Barbie Dolls and even a Ken.  And if you are thinking Fisher Price given her age, I was able to get a manger Fisher Price set and a lovely pink dollhouse too. The toilet even flushes on the dollhouse :-)

How do you play with your ra?

For more deep thought....

In my soul, I am still that small child who did not care about anything else but the beautiful colors of a rainbow.  ~Papiha Ghosh

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon.  A happiness weapon.  A beauty bomb.  And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one.  It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air.  Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas.  And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight.  Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in.  With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest.  And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.  ~Robert Fulghum

Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving thanks!

For over thirteen years I have been traveling my ra journey.  I have taken claim to it.  I have carried it in silence at times, I have carried it in pain at times, I have tried to hide it at other times, and I have acknowledged that it will be with me for the rest of my life.  And today, I try desperately to celebrate it the best I can. But, I could not have traveled this journey alone.  I have so many that I want and I need to thank for helping me, supporting me, celebrating me, and caring for me along the way.

To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, I want to acknowledge that you have been there...

To my daughter who was there from day one and saw me cry, saw me scream, saw me curse at times and saw me overcome the trials of ra, I thank you.  You not only gave me the will to go on but you gave me the courage to do it with determination and to gather hope along this journey.  You were there when I got up in the morning greeting me with your sweet smile.  You were there when, only at seven, your wisdom and encouragement pushed me on.  Your tender little hand outstretched to help me to my feet, your concerned eyes allowing me to mother from the couch when I was to weak to rise,  your understanding that something major was wrong with your mommy, your determination to keep me here with you and your wisdom that this was going to be a life long journey and not a short walk....thank you my sweet angel.  Without you I am not sure I could have kept on through some of the pain. I am not sure I would have found the courage to take the drugs in the hope of staffing off the progression of my ra. I am just not sure I would have kept on keeping on. I truly believe that God puts people into our lives for a reason and I have no doubt you were placed in my life for your kindness, for your wisdom beyond your years and for your grace on this earth. Thank you.

To my son, now thirty, I could not have done the early journey without you. You gave up so much to help out when no one else could be there.  You alone had to ride your bike for miles to met the bus that your little sister rode each and every day. You alone gave up the many after school activities that so many teenagers insisted they attend because they wanted to.  I counted on you to be there for her in our absence because we had to work to keep our family going, to pay the medical bills, and to keep medical coverage.  You alone did the grocery shopping and even saw fit to use every coupon available. You alone made the move with us from the west coast to the east giving up what was normal to so many your age, your first college year.  You alone helped me unpack the many, many boxes in our tiny new home in NJ.  You alone stepped in when your Dad had to work those many long hours to make up for my lost income. You became a man, perhaps too quickly, and I often wonder if this journey did not cause your harm along the way, cause you stress, cause you to wonder why, cause you to doubt the future and thus cause you to loose your footing along the way. I am proud of you that you have again found a steady pace to your own destiny on this earth and to you I say...thank you.

To my husband that for over twenty five years saw the determination to stand by me in sickness and in health, I am forever grateful.  Even in our cultural differences you found the solid ground to support me both emotionally and physically during those difficult and dark days. You alone worked the long, long hours necessary to keep your job(s) which ultimately kept our family afloat. You alone assured me that we could make it both financially and emotionally if I had to go on disability. And, we did. You alone became my guiding light in the vast ocean of uncertainty and helped to guide me to the other side.  You alone saw beauty in my ever changing ra body, soul, and mind. And, you alone will be there after all others have left to discover their own destiny. Thank you for being my husband.

To my dear friend Cathy who has been there way before my ra. Who has been there through thick and thin, through births and yes, through deaths, I owe you so much.  You have been there for me in ways that only girlfriends can be.  We, as females, seem to have this secret club that is built on a long standing understanding.  Could it be that we met in a previous life? Could it be that God realized we would need that special bond and told us in heaven, before our earthly decent, that we must stand together on this journey? You have done it all and you did it before my ra. The late, late night conversations discussing circumstances to be.  The 8 hour trip to help me pack up a home to move west when no one else could or would for that matter and all without my asking. The endless phone conversations over the years, whereby we solved the world's problems according to our standards.  Your friendship has meant and means so much to me.  We can be thousands of miles apart, not see or speak to each other for months and within an instant, things are once again in harmony.  Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that as we have said and as will be destined, we shall one day find ourselves rocking side by side on that veranda sipping our coffee.  Cheers, my dear friend, and thank you.

To the many cyber friends I have met along this ra journey...without you this journey would have been a lonely and dark one.  You have been there to listen to my ups and downs, my raves and my rants,  my wishes and my frustrations and most importantly you have shared your experiences. Through you and with you, I have gained the confidence to understand my disease(s), the courage to question the professionals that care for us and to gain the courage to push on.  And one of you even found the kindness to share your country with me in ways that only you could.  I will never forget your support, your wisdom, your knowledge, and most importantly your camaraderie.  Thank you.

My journey is my own but my life has been filled with love, kindness, friendship and hope.  To all of you that have made my journey possible and beautiful...thank you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Heard Mr. Turkey say...

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I truly believe it is all the wonderful smells and tastes that still linger in my brain and on my tongue from my childhood.  Thanksgiving was always a huge deal in my grandmother's home.  She started the preparation weeks in advance and could be found with floured hair whirling in her 1950's kitchen from pot to stove to table starting at 4 am Thanksgiving morning.

I took this tradition to heart until I was diagnosed with ra.  At first, I fought my screaming joints and continued to prep weeks in advance, rise at 4am, and whirl from pot to stove to counter until I finally broke down one year in tears.  It was all too much. I finally had to resolve that Thanksgiving was going to be more about giving thanks than about the food preparation for the masses.

When we were children, my mom would always sing us a song that goes like this…
I heard Mr. Turkey say….gobble, gobble, gobble.
Soon will be Thanksgiving Day…gobble, gobble, gobble.
But I think that I should run and hide until the day is done…
gobble, gobble, gobble.

Now, if I could just run and hide too, I think I might have the safest solution for this holiday season but alas I am the proactive type and decided to conquer this holiday instead.

And so here is what I heard Mr. Turkey say…

  • If you are the cook this year, be kind to yourself.
  • If you are having a large crowd, ask that each person bring a side dish.
  • Cook only the turkey if you aren't willing to pre-order your entire dinner.
  • Buy your side dishes and desserts outside if you can't ask others to bring side dishes.
  • Consider paper products and if you aren't willing to do the paper route, assign kitchen patrol duty to others.
  • Be sure to rest up before Thanksgiving.
  •  Have pain medication on hand.
  • Do your shopping early on and if you insist on cooking the entire dinner consider frozen pies, frozen veggies and appetizers that are easy.
  • Prep as much as you can ahead of time (see links below for some tips on dishes you can make days in advance)
  • And no one said that Turkey is the only option for this holiday (Mr. Turkey is jumping up and down in agreement here). Heck we have been known to order in Greek food! 
  • Consider going out for Thanksgiving dinner. Just be sure to check ahead and make reservations if needed.
  • Remember, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, sharing memories, and creating memories.

We have some very fond memories from our newly created Thanksgiving traditions.  And yes, we have learned to be flexible and to focus on what really counts during this holiday season….each other.

I would love to know how you make this holiday season simply your own!

Mr. Turkey says here are some great resources for further tips:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's as clear as...

I woke up this morning feeling not right.  I mean I had my usual problems of morning stiffness, tender, warm and swollen joints and even fatigue and a low grade fever.  But there was just something that just doesn't feel the same.  Could I have picked up a bug?  Could I be getting what has been going around my daughter's college campus?  That's the problem with having ra or any chronic condition for that matter.  It becomes as clear as mud.  How do we know when it is ra (or any chronic condition) causing problems or something new. 

And how do we know if it is temporary and not to worry about like a passing cold or something more serious like pneumonia or something that we should seek a medical opinion on?

Case in point:  The prevalent symptoms of ra as stated at are:

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Morning stiffness that may last for hours
  • Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss
Check, check, check, and yes, final check. Now what? I have had all these symptoms for about 13 years now and yet I know something different is going on. Maybe it is the slight dizziness that comes upon standing too quickly or the itchy throat that has suddenly appeared out of no where and an added pressure in my joints. An added ache that isn't like the normal aches of ra. And really, I wouldn't give too hoots about any of this except with chronic illness…well things can turn quickly.  We (well almost all of us) take immune compromising medications which can turn simple into ugly pretty darn quick.
For the time being I will wait and watch.  If my fever doesn't peek over 102, I won't panic. I have always believed a fever is the vehicle by which our body fights off the demons. I will let it run its course unless it becomes unbearable or unless I am going to sleep. At that point I will take a Tylenol for safety's sake. And just for extra protection I plan on making the best remedy I know for any illness….homemade chicken soup.
I don't know what it is about homemade chicken soup but I swear by the stuff. And yes, it should be homemade. I will add my check of approval though on Boston Market's chicken soup (picture is theirs). That is if you can't make you own and you have a wonderful friend willing to pick some up for you. As of this date they don't make home deliveries that I know about.
So until tomorrow when whatever this is I have going on makes itself known, I will stay just a bit confused, just a bit out of focus about what is going on with me. 
And for added measure, I will be adding  three cloves of garlic instead of two to my homemade soup to help ward off these evil spirits.
Further reading to help clear up the mud: