Friday, February 26, 2010

Peace and tranquility...sort of

So, my mind has been all over the place the last few days. I haven't been able to fit two thoughts together and make sense of them at all. I realized I needed to get back into my normal routine and start putting things back together around the house. So, I have been using my trusty timer to remind me to work 15 minutes at a time and then I can rest. I have managed to return most of my house back to a state that is only marginally embarrassing (which is a good bit better than it was before) and that has helped me find a little more inner peace. Just making sure that the things are picked up a bit and dinner is planned ahead of time seems to ease the stress around me. Things started to calm down yesterday after several episodes of cleaning and dejunking and by this morning I was in near-perfect unison with the universe around me. I was up on time, I had my morning coffee and breakfast, the girls needed hardly any help to get out the door on time this,  and then I caught up on a few minutes of sleep that I needed. The shower was pre-warmed, by clothes were already laid out,  even the traffic seemed to just be working smoothly for me this morning. Driving home, I was suddenly aware that it's Friday morning, typically the day I choose to reward myself for good behavior during the week. So, after dropping DH off at work (with time to spare!) I stopped in at the local, overpriced, mass produced, coffee shop for a mocha and a scone.

First, you have to understand how much I love coffee and what a spiritual experience a GOOD cup of coffee can be. Since I was roughly three years old, I have been drinking coffee every morning. As I got older, my tastes have become more refined and I now have a preference not just on how the coffee is prepared, but also on the roast, the grind, and the location that the beans have been grown in. I am not married to one variety, though. I like to choose the style of coffee to suit my mood. A strong cup of Columbian or Kona is the best way to wake up for me. By midday, I usually feel like sampling a more exotic style, or even a flavored variety. In the evenings, I have been known to have a cup or two with spike of something grown-up in it. Iced coffee is awesome on Summer mornings. Blended ice coffees are even better on hot summer afternoons. For a special treat, I will go for something mixed with peppermint or chocolate and topped with a bit of whipped cream (it has the same calories as a slice of chocolate cake, but costs about half and is so much easier to consume while driving!)

This morning (actually, for the past week) I had a real craving for a White Chocolate Mocha from the before mentioned overpriced coffee chain. I sampled a chocolate chip variety the other night, but that wasn't quite the right blend to satisfy. Yesterday evening, I drove through a slightly less expensive burger-joint-gone-Cafe and got a Mocha there, but that was even worse. Not only did it not cure my craving, but it burned the tarnation out of my tongue. (Why would a business PURPOSELY make something that you aren't able to drink for at least an hour after purchasing it without suffering pain and torture!?! Cruelty? Humor? I have no idea.)

Anyway, this morning come snow or high water I was going to get my Mocha, if it was the last thing I did (which it nearly was, but more on that in a minute.) So, I got lost once, drove around the wrong parking lot twice, and turned around in the middle of the street, until FINALLY I got to the the coffee shop I wanted. Lo and behold, I was able to get the object of my desire in short order and a blueberry scone on the side. I walked out feeling slightly taken advantage of after shelling out the cash for it, but when they have you addicted, I guess they can name their price, right? The smell and the taste and the sheer enjoyment of the coffee and scone together were well worth it and I forgot how much it cost in a very short amount of time. I needed to get back home, though, and so I decided to take my little treat "To-Go" instead of lingering in the cafe for a few more minutes to enjoy my coffee in peace. I can drink a coffee and munch my snack while I drive! That is what multitasking is all about, right? If I can nurse a baby, wash the dishes and carry on phone conversation - all at once - this should be a cinch.

Driving back home, I was in a sort of suspended world of complete satisfaction. The coffee, the scone, the van than has a working heater for the first time in almost two years... I really couldn't imagine things getting any better. The ride wasn't even disturbed by the normal dozen or so police that usually patrol that route. (Even when I am not speeding and my car is completely legal, I still have that moment of fear every time I drive past a police officer on the road... just habit I guess, but I hate the adrenaline rush of fear...) The cool weather and the clouds seemed to just fit the mood and made the ride home cozier. The aroma of coffee filled the van and I might have started to drift into a dream state for a minute. I guess I was a little too confident in my ability to handle more than one thing at a time.

Then, about three miles from home, lost in wonder of the perfect moment I was experiencing, Gurghk! I choked on a blueberry that was trying to fight its way down past the whipped cream. I managed to keep the sacred brew in my mouth instead of spewing it across the inside of my windshield, thankfully, but breathing was just not happening at that moment. I started feeling that mild panic when you think you might be in trouble, but you're not really sure yet. My dad used to tell me I shouldn't walk and chew gum at the same time...I was beginning to think he had something there. I was coughing, and hacking, and attempting to breathe air and swallow food and not the other way around. My eyes started to water (which of course, caused my mascara to run just enough to burn my eyes even further) and the road became blurry and I got a sudden image in my mind of the headline depicting my death - Woman Killed on Hwy, Choked to Death by Latte.

I exited the highway and slowed on the exit ramp, thinking only of the safety of the other drivers (and it was my exit to go home anyway) when I took a tentative sip of my drink to see if it would help move things in the right direction. Ok, not so smart. It was kind of like setting fire to the curtains to keep your couch from burning. How can so few drops of something cause so much pain? Here comes a stoplight, maybe I will have a minute to get things back under it turned green too quickly (hack... cough... gasp!) Oh, there is a stop sign coming up here, I can use that minute to grab a napkin from my bag! Never mind, the pick up behind me is honking because I am not moving fast enough. (Snerk....gasp... cough!)

 I think I was as much shocked as I was uncomfortable. The nerve of the coffee trying to kill me like that! After I had longed and yearned after you for almost a week, now you try to strangle me me and run me off the road! I don't think so. You might be my Elixir of Life, but you are still an inanimate object and I will best you!

By the time I got home, I was breathing normally and had managed to NOT aspirate anything further, but my moment of perfect bliss was ruined. I had coffee dripping down my nose and I felt like I had been strangled by an octopus. (Don't ask me why it  was an octopus, specifically...just go with me here...) I crawled out of the van on wobbly legs and stumbled into the house to get a few deep breaths and get my heart rate back to normal, when I suddenly realized I left my coffee out in the car. Grrrr. Fine. I went back out into the miserably cloudy and cold morning to get the last few sips of the coffee that had turned cold in the bottom of the cup.

Of course, I had to finish it! Once something tries to kill you, you must overcome it! Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. This was one fight I was going to win! So, I finished that Mocha and I showed it who is boss and I polished off the last of the scone, too (just in case it was starting to get ideas, like the coffee.) I feel satisfied and confident in my ability to multitask once again.

Now, I think I will go brew a pot of something less...fatal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things are about to get wierd

I've been doing a lot of soul searching the last few days. You see, things around my home have been moving along swimmingly for the past few months, mostly thanks to the presence of Wonderful Poppa. He has been a huge help and a wonderful source of support for me.

He came to stay with us at just the right time. I was just about to hit rock bottom before the Holidays set in. WP was the one who would give me a hug and tell me I was doing things the right way and that he could tell how hard I was trying to make things work. When you are only able to a quarter of what you were able to do before, it takes a toll on your self esteem which only makes the problem worse. To have someone tell you that they can see you are doing all you can and that you are doing well with that, it makes things just feel better all around. I could not have managed to get this far without that kind of support.

When I went back to the doctor and asked for the new prescription that would treat my FM, I was so scared of getting back on the medication roller coaster - feeling bad, starting a new med, feeling worse because of side effects, feeling better when the side effects wear off, wondering if I really do feel better than before the meds or just better than I did at first with the meds. WP was quick to let me know what the reality of things was. When I really needed to know how I was doing, and how long I had been doing that way, he was able to give me the kind of feedback I needed.

Unfortunately, WP is so awesome that I think I get spoiled with him around. He is so much quicker that I am to take care of little things that need to be done. I feel bad that he takes care of me and my family so much, but that's just the way he his. He is good at taking care of people and making them feel better. Now that he has moved back to his own place, the responsibilities are all on my shoulders. Cooking, cleaning, keeping the kids from killing each other - I have to be in charge of all of this again. Frankly it scares me.

The truth is, though, that I can handle it. Over the past month, especially, I have become stronger and more stable than I remember being in a very long time. Having WP here to get me through the worst part of all of this was a huge help, but now I have to stand on my own and continue without him. I am fairly certain that I can. The time for slow recovery is done. Although I am not 100% yet, I am getting closer every day, and what's more - I am able to cope better when I am not feeling my best. A headache means I might move a little slowly or that I keep the radio off. It doesn't mean that I have to crawl in bad for three hours and wish the world away. I am able to realize my limits more and ask for help when I need it. The rest of the family is really more willing to help out than they used to be, too. I can communicate with all of them better and they understand why I ask for their help. That makes a big difference.

So, with all this feeling better going on, it is time to start getting my life back on track again. That means going back to work full time, primarily. I have time on my hands and I am feeling antsy. Plus, we need the extra money around here to keep the forward momentum going. It also means getting my routines back in order so my house doesn't resemble the aftermath of a hurricane. Certain things will get harder - making dinner every night, for instance. I have to keep my menus and think ahead to make sure everything is ready before I get home. But things will also get easier. Having a full time job keeps me on a regular schedule. That means first of all that sleeping at night will get easier, and also that just going through the motions of the day will get smoother. The longer you do something the easier it is to do it, and getting up and going to work every day will get easier for me. And so, I have changed my focus on working from "Maybe something will come along" to "I am actively looking for a position."

I have also decided that it is time to purchase a second car. This is a really big deal for me. My first car was new when I  got it and I made payments on it myself. I traded that one in on a bigger car for a our growing family. Bad decisions followed more bad decisions and we lost that nice big car. There is only so much you are able to do when your income is cut by more than half, but in the end, I probably could have held on to the car if I had made different decisions back then. Losing my house followed shortly after and my life has been in a shambles every since.

Purchasing a car (and having to get a car payment) makes me feel weak in the knees to think about it. We haven't had the ability to purchase a car on our own on several years. The van we have now is basically a gift from MIL and FIL. They make the payments and let us drive it. We have purchased a few cash cars as a back up but we always end up with a lemon. The fear of having another payment to make every month is compounded by the fear that we will have another car to repair all the time. I will be the first to admit I know very little about cars, so it is insanely easy for me to get taken by a bad salesman. My sincere hope is that by purchasing a car from a dealership, I will have a lower chance of getting a real clunker and a higher chance of getting something worth driving for next several years.

Buying a car before having a new job to make SURE I can pay for it seems a little like putting the cart before the horse. I believe it is time to take that risk, though. We DO have the ability to pay for the car right now, as long as we are VERY careful. Having the second car will allow me to find a job that pays better and is a better fit, which will in turn make it easier to make those payments. I feel in my gut that this is the right thing to do.

I do hope my gut is not being misled.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Sorry it took so long to get this posted. Things have been more than a little strange in my household these past few weeks.

First of all, the new med levels have helped so very much that I am able to be up and around a lot more than I used to be. Instead of blogging because the pain has forced to me to stay put and I need something to keep my brain occupied, I now have to make time to sit and write in between all the other things that I am up and doing. Of all the changes that are happening around here, I like this one the best because it means I am getting healthier! I also regret it the most because I love writing so much, and I miss it when I am not able to spend a good amount of time with my laptop every day.

Second, all this moving about has gotten my brain thinking in new and strange directions. Last week while destroying some old papers from several years ago, WP (who was spearheading this particular de-cluttering mission) found a check that had not been cashed from several years ago. After doing a little research, I couldn't be sure if it had been canceled and re-issued or if it was just never cashed to begin with. So, I brought it back into the temp agency that I had been working for back then and they are in the process of researching it for me to see if I ever received the money from that check. Here is where the story gets weird - while I was there, I asked one of the recruiters if there were any positions available that I would qualify for. It turns out there is and after an impromptu interview, she has submitted my resume to the client for a potential interview. I will find out in the next day or two if I was accepted an if I will have an interview and potentially a temp-to-perm full time job.

For most people this wouldn't be a very big deal. For me though, this marks a major change in my thought process. It would make sense for me to look for a full time job right now. We are financially on a hamster wheel, trying very hard to keep moving, but not able to get any further ahead. All of my girls are in school full time and there isn't any reason that I should be sitting at home by myself when I could be improving the life situation for all of us. All of these things make sense, but going back to work full time is just not that easy. I can figure out all the details like transportation, getting the kids home from school, making sure dinner gets done and all that. The real hurdle is getting ME in the mindset to be successful at work. That is no small hurdle, either.

Over the last six years, I have worked at least 10 jobs. They have been in almost as many fields and none of them have lasted more than a few months at a time. I have worked as an executive assistant, a customer service call taker, a cashier, a day care teacher, even a bus driver. Part of the reason my resume looks so schizophrenic is that I have been desperately looking for a position somewhere that fits into the life I have. From right around the time EG was born, I have been sick consistently and it has gotten progressively worse. I need to be able to do something that allows me to take care of my kids without getting fired for missing too much work. I also have to be able to physically do it without severe and debilitating pain. Even assuming I find a job that qualifies in those two areas, there is still my own job performance that has to be taken in to consideration. It is very hard to do an accurate, efficient, productive job when you are not even able to remember what you had for breakfast.

Getting fired from a job is one of the most painful and humiliating things ever to happen to me. It has happened a whole lot over the past few years, especially, and I can't really get angry about it. I am depressed, and sad, and miserable, but there is nothing to get mad at, other than myself.  I have gone through layoffs and staff reductions, and that is no fun, but at least I could blame the company or the economy or some vague outside force. When you a get fired for making too many typos - in client's names - there really isn't anyone to take the blame except yourself. Some days are better than others, but the not-so-good days are enough to lose a job for, easily.

Of course, when this happens over and over again, it really takes a toll on your self esteem and sense of worth. I have only been able to attribute these "failures" to something beyond my control for the past few months. The Fibromyalgia I am now fighting has apparently been the bugbear I have been dealing with all along. The migraines that landed me in bed for weeks at a time, the calling in sick because I was too depressed to get out of bed (let alone shower and be dressed for work), the muscle and joint pain that never seemed to go away completely, the short attention span and lousy memory - all of these were just little parts of a much bigger monster. I didn't know that before, though. All I knew was I kept being offered opportunity after opportunity and I kept failing miserably by not pulling my own weight or living up to the expectations that were required of me.

The last time I was fired, I was about to throw in the towel for good. This whole "working thing" just didn't seem to be something I was capable of. It might mean pinching pennies and driving old and beat-up cars the rest of my life, but at that time in my mind, that was preferable to being called into my boss's office and told to pack my things again. The mere thought of going through that whole process again, makes my stomach flip Apply, interview, start work, get trained, screw up, get more training, screw up again, work some more, call in sick, get fired, clean out my desk, repeat. I think a person can only do through this so many times before it will take its toll. I have begun wondering if I keep losing jobs because I am sick, or if I am sick because I keep losing jobs.

Over the past month, thanks to new meds and better lifestyle, I have had more energy and less pain that I have had in years, literally. I have been able (and willing) to get into a normal, daily, schedule. I sleep at night, I am awake during the day, I cook dinner for the family at night, and I am acting like a mom when my kids are around. I still work a few nights a week at my transcription job, and I have even been doing well there and I haven't called in once, since I started back in January. Working a full shift still causes me to hurt and feel stiff, but I am able to handle it and push through. These are apparently things that most people take for granted as things that they are capable of every day. For me, they are the goals and accomplishments that separate the good days from the bad.

So, with all these improvements in my life, is it time for me to take on something bigger, like a full time job? Even saying "Full Time Job" gives me butterflies the size of house cats in my stomach. The fear of failure is such a strong force that it is nearly paralyzing. In this case, it is so public. I think that makes it worse, for me. The three-ring-circus that is involved with me starting work always seems so inconvenient for everyone else and it takes weeks, and even months sometimes, to get into a comfortable routine. When I get fired, seemingly just when everyone was getting used to my new job, it feels like I have let so many people down - again. Everyone in my family knows I have lost my job again, my kids and my husband are upset for me (in spite of how often an occurrence this has become) my friends will find out, even my kids' teachers have to be updated on my whereabouts during the day.

Today, I think I am going to "Let go and Let God", as it is said. I will pray on this and try to leave my mind open to whatever opportunity comes my way. If I get an interview and I get offered the job, I will work my hardest and put my best effort into it. If I don't get this job, I will try not to take it as a personal failure. I will take it as a sign that it isn't the right time. I will have faith that I will see the right opportunity when it comes around.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sanity Suppliments

This week's issue of Newsweek has a very interesting article concerning the nation's use of anti-depressants. Actually, there are two articles. One appears at first to be a lengthy expose' about how many doctors prescribe the medications based on a few studies that aren't really comprehensive and they are not allowed to see the rest of the studies that suggest the medications aren't very effective at all. The other, an opposing piece, is a short account written by one doctor who personally took antidepressants and feels better now.

The position of the magazine is clear, if for no other reason than that the "Why antidepressants don't work" article is three times longer than the "Why antidepressants do work." I will say that the first piece, by Sharon Begley, is very well researched and documented. Most of piece focuses on the results of research that most doctors rely on. Here is the heart of it though - the benefits of anti-depressants are only marginally higher than a placebo pill in every single study performed. But, because there is a slightly higher percentage of patients that seem to have improved symptoms with these medications the results can legally say "this medicine is better." What isn't told to the public, or even the doctors, very often is that the actual percentage is less than 2%.

All of the studies determine the effectiveness of the medication as compared to a placebo pill (a sugar pill with no active ingredients.) When dealing with mental disorders, especially conditions like depression, the results can only be based on the experiences of the patient. A doctor can ask questions and make statements based on observations, but on the whole, the level of depression is decided by how the patient answers certain questions. Basically the research runs like this - a group of people are gathered together. They take surveys and questionnaires concerning their mood, their emotions, their habits, and their thought patterns. (Are you sad? Do you sleep more than X hours per day? Do you think about killing yourself?) The entire group is given medication to take but everyone is told that half of them will be receiving real medicine and the other half will be given a placebo. No one but the doctors know who gets what. Throughout the duration of the research, each of the patients is given the same survey or questionnaire again and the results are compared to their original scores. 

The comparative results of these studies are skewed to begin with simply because of the "placebo affect." This is when a patient improves simply because they believe they are being given medicine that will help them.  Certain conditions have been known to be affected more than others by placebos. For instance, hypertension and pain can be successfully treated with placebos while cancer and high cholesterol can not. When a condition can be effectively treated treated simply because they patient thinks it is being treated, it can be pretty hard to determine whether a new medication is actually working or not.

Patients that believe they are getting real medication improved almost half the time regardless of what they are actually taking. To prove the point even more, people who got real medication but believed they got a placebo didn't improve half the time. Instead of proving the effectiveness of one medication, these studies seem to show the effectiveness of the mind to control its own chemical and emotional balance.

Here is the part that worries me the most. Doctors still prescribe the medications more and more frequently, even with the research out there that doesn't really show one way or another that they work. An improvement of 1.8% of antidepressants over placebos doesn't really prove a whole lot to me. It doesn't seem to get any better when the levels of depression are worse, either, except in the case of the most extreme forms of depression. Even then, only 13% of severely depressed patients are helped by these medications.

To make matters more confusing, consider this - the study that the entire science of antidepressants is based on was highly consequential and has even been disproved recently. All anti-depressants act on the same basic principal - that depression is caused by a deficiency of a particular chemicals in the brain - serotonin, melatonin, and nor epinephrine - and by increasing one of these chemicals, you will improve the overall mental health of the patient. The study that determined this was held over 50 years ago. Some patients with lower serotonin levels seemed to be more depressed so the doctors assumed the connection was there and printed the results. Since then, more studies have been held trying to figure out the exact relationship of chemicals versus depression and the results were completely different and actually opposite at times. Lowering the level of serotonin didn't seem to make people depressed any more than raising it seemed to make them happier. There is even a new drug being used overseas that appears to help depression by lowering the serotonin levels.

Even studies that show certain medications are more effective than others can't really be trusted. When one medication doesn't work and the patient is switched to another, and another, and another,  the percentage of improvement gets lower with each change. Sometimes changing medications brings improvement, but is this because of the medication, or because the depression was already lifting, or because life styles have improved so the patient is able to cope better? There has never been a study comparing multiple changes of drugs to placebos so it is very hard to make an informed conclusion about that.

This whole issue is very close to me. As someone who has been prescribed medications daily for nearly the past eight years, I have a lot to consider here. Bi-polar disorder runs in my family and it is obvious who suffers from it and who doesn't. I remember clearly the onset of my own issues and I can say that this particular condition can be debilitating. While I never liked the idea of throwing drugs at a problem instead of trying to figure out the root of it, but by the time I went to my doctor, I was in serious need of help. My doctor felt that medication would help, so I listened. My symptoms were moderate at the time but medication was the only treatment that was suggested.

It was five years before I was referred to a psychologist. That was only three years after I was referred to a neurologist for headaches. The neurologist prescribed medication that helped manage pain but also has been prescribed as a mood leveler. The psychologist coordinated medications with him in hopes to find some combination that would improve both my depression and my pain. It wasn't until the last year that I have actually found any relief from the depression and only the last month have I found an improvement in the pain.

So, according to the research that has been released (and also some that hasn't been published) the medications might not be the thing that has helped me at all. Perhaps the relief, much like the cause of my fibromyalgia pain, is all in my head. Now, I am not suggesting that everything is made up or that it is not real. On the contrary, I believe the pain is very real. The problem is how my brain interprets signals that my body sends. A normal brush against something is interpreted as if I were punched. A small disappointment or stressor - say bad traffic - can affect me as if it were much worse - as if it were a traffic collision.

The article I read mentioned repeatedly not to stop taking medications suddenly. I'm sure it was as much to prevent someone from filing suit as it was out of true concern, but that is my opinion, only. The overall mood of the piece was that maybe you shouldn't have been taking them in the first place. The unfortunate part of all this medication prescribing going on, is that the medications are the first line of defense for mad moods and sad Sundays. The same research that says antidepressants are not as effective as you would like them to be also say that therapy and lifestyle changes do far more to ease symptoms than medications do. Why don't doctors choose the most effective treatments first? It comes down to expediency and money. It is faster to give a patient something and send them away with a "cure" than it is to give them a referral to someone else and hope that they follow through. Also, insurance companies don't cover therapists or lifestyle doctors like they do for PCP's.

The whole issue is getting me a bit riled up. It feels as though patients are being taken advantage of. When you are in the deep, black, hole you really, really want something that will help. It looks like there are plenty of options out there other than medication, but it doesn't seem like doctors want to hear it. Or maybe, the patients don't want to hear it. This is starting to sound a whole lot like when a parent who demands their child get antibiotics for every illness, even when a virus is the culprit (and antibiotics are really no good.)  Years after the practice has become common, we find that taking the wrong medication too often is actually creating germs that aren't defeated by normal antibiotics anymore.

Is a rise in depression and related illnesses really the problem or does it have to do more with the practice of giving the wring medication too often and not attacking the real root of the problem? This "root" is most likely different from one person to the next but I really feel that doctors - and patients, for that matter - should probably look deeper into the real reason for the depression rather than sick a band-aid over the problem and move on to the next person.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cool Things About My Hearts

Here are a few fun things I wanted to share about my family:

EG said to me a few weeks ago, "You know Mommy, everybody has a collection. I am going to collect words!" She then proceeded to look through the house for magazines and newspapers so that she could cut out words that she liked and put them in a bag. Among her collection: Walgreen's, Lean Meat, and FREE.

All three of my girls are in the Gifted and Talented program at school. They get different and extra curriculum to help keep up with their ... needs. One year LH was given a weekly worksheet covered with different brain teasers. They were the kind that are meant to get you thinking, not really to get a right or wrong answer. One of them was a picture of a palm tree and next to it was a stick figure man with a question mark over his head. The problem read" Why didn't Jim climb the tree?"
LH's answer: Because there aren't any coconuts!

Every single year, all of my girls make all the valentines for their classmates by hand. They start on the first day of February and spend two whole weeks creating and decorating a special valentine for every one in their classes. This is completely by their own choice. I have even bought the valentines from the stores and they are still in the box. They just prefer making their own.

TD never ever stops moving or making some sort of noise. She hums and sings while she is doing her homework because it helps her concentrate. She can't spend an entire meal sitting in a chair, she has to stand through at least part of it. She is also the only one of my kids who as a baby, slept through the night within 3 months, took naps without argument (even as a toddler), and still goes to sleep faster than either of her sisters.

The first book that LH wrote and illustrated was in first grade. She wrote a story and drew pictures about some characters she liked to watch on TV. Since then, she has written many, many more pieces just for the fun of it. Right now she is working on two short stories and one novel.

TD and EG are accused of being twins almost every where we go, even though they are two years apart. They tell people that they are twins, they were just born at different times. They have their own twin speak and they even share a bed every night that we will allow them to. Sometimes, EG will even crawl into TD's bed in the middle of the night in her sleep.

LH loves to make beaded jewelery. She has her own beads, wire, and tools. She has sold them and the buyers had no clue they were made by a 10 year old. You would think that she would wear beautiful jewelery every day, though. But no. She doesn't actually wear the jewelery, herself. She only makes it for other people.

Every now and then DH will get down on the floor and wrestle with the girls or chase them around the house in a tickle fight. He still does this even though LH is in Jr. High.

Our pet the Big Black Dog, is part Border Collie and part Retriever, and all covered in long black fur. BBD has been in our family since TD was 6 months old. He views TD ans EG as his "puppies." when they were very young and crawling, he would guard them and keep them in the play blanket. If they strayed too far, he would lick them to encourage them to crawl where he wanted them to go. Now that they are old enough to play and run outside, he likes to go out with them and "heard" them to keep them in the yard.

Last year, LH was friends with two kids from a year ahead of  her. This is quite a status symbol for a 6th grader, especially since one of the kids was a cheerleader. The other kid was a boy who apparently has some bad history with the cheerleader. For a few weeks, the cheerleader had some pretty mean things to say about the boy every single day and made a point to say nasty things to him as well. LH stood up for the boy and attempted to get the harassment to stop. The cheerleader told LH that she needed to drop the boy or they wouldn't be friends anymore. The next day, LH stood up to the girl and told her that no matter what had happened the year before, no one deserved to be ridiculed every day. Amazingly, the cheerleader backed down, told LH she was right, and never bothered the boy again.

One of the rules in my house is "No tying things to other things." You would think that this would be common sense, but in my house, you can never take anything for granted - especially common sense.

TD'a favorite game is the PS2 version of Atari Legends. It is a collection of the old games that used to be available on the original Atari system. Out of all the games there are to choose from her favorites are the Maze game and the math booster.

In our house we have a No TV rule during the week. Until Daddy gets home, the TV stays off. He only occasionally watches a few shows while the kids are awake. You would think my kids would be bored, but really, they are busy until they get into bed at night with their toys, games, art supplies, and books. They may not know what happened last night on iCarly, but they can tell you them "name" of nearly 30 Polly dolls.

DH has started a Hero Quest campaign using the old board game and some of his collection of miniatures. (Geeks will understand this.) Every one in the family has their own characters that they are very proud of. DH is a dwarf. LH is a magician. TD is an elf. EG is a barbarian - because it is the strongest one.

EG confided in me her plan to take over the world. She will go to the zoo and find the monkey cage and the elephant enclosure. She will throw dirt at the monkeys and make them believe that is was the elephants that did it. Then she will throw poo at the elephants and blame it on the monkeys (monkeys always throw poo, you know.) In the ensuing battle between the elephants and monkeys, she will use a mind control device to take over the minds of the animals while they are distracted. Then, she will use these animals to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!! The only problem is, the entire plan hinges on whether or not I will let her go to the zoo.

DH insists that we kiss goodnight - on the lips - every night before bed. Sometimes I stay up later, writing. Sometimes he stays up later, crafting. No matter what though, we always get our goodnight kiss.

The greatest purchase I ever made was a new bed. DH and I bought a Tempurpedic mattress set and I have been in love with it ever since. I never thought I would be one of those crazy people who can't stop talking about how awesome something is that they just bought, but here it is, three years later and I still gush about what an awesome mattress I have. 

Just after high school I dated a guy who bought me a pair of Dr. Martin boots as a gift. When my #2 sister was in high school (and I was still at home) she would routinely steal them and wear them to school after I would leave for work. We fought viciously about this every day. When I had my oldest, the boots became too small, and I gave them to her with no regrets.

All three of my girls know that Pocahontas was not the name of the woman who married John Rolfe. Her name was MahTohKah. Pocahontas was an affectionate name of a father to his daughter. Her name was changed to Rebecca Rolfe when she married John and moved to England. Every year when the schools talk about pilgrims and Columbus day and all that my girls are very vehement about making sure their teachers know all of these facts, too.

My brother was able to talk to animals when he was young. He actually managed to get wild song birds to land on his hands.

When LH broke her arm the first time, four years ago, she told the doctor that was putting her cast on, "I've had three open heart surgeries. This is nothing." Strangely, though, the mere thought of getting shots or getting blood drawn will throw her into a panic.

DH proposed to me on the Las Colinas Riverwalk in the grass amphitheater on one knee with my grandmother's ring as the engagement ring. Also, the wedding rings we used when we got married were white gold bands we had purchased - actually haggled for - a year before we were even engaged. We decided that if they were good enough to wear before, they were good enough to wear after. We have been married more than 10 years and we still wear those ring.

I like to take my girls "Treasure Hunting" at Goodwill. They love to find the best deals on unique clothing. They each have their own style and taste, too. When we outgrow the clothes, if they are still in good shape we donate them right back to Goodwill for someone else to "discover."

I grew up drinking coffee from a young age, as was the tradition in my family. My husband however, only drank it when it was below freezing and he was on night watch in the Marines. A few years ago, I convinced him to try flavored coffee and creamers. Now, HE is the one reaching for the coffee pot first thing in the morning and he can tell - by taste - the difference between Columbian and Hawaiian beans. I tell him I have turned him to the Dark Side...of the Bean.

For Christmas one year I didn't buy any candy at all for the stockings. Instead I filled them with little toys, fruit and whole nuts. They never missed the candy.

I keep the hair from all of my girls' first haircuts in my keepsake box. I also still have the love notes my old boyfriends wrote to me back in high school. I guess I am just sentimental that way.

My Wonderful Poppa spends a few months every year around the holidays with us here. I look forward to this tradition every year.

When my kids describe their classmates they describe them as peach, light brown, or dark brown. They never use racial or ethnic names. They just describe what they see. They also have no hesitation about walking up to someone in a wheelchair or on crutches and striking up a conversation with them. They have a wonderful ability to see HUMANS instead of people and I never, ever, want that to change.

DH has taken several IQ tests and he has scored above genius level on all of them. My parents also both scored genius level or above on IQ tests and were once members of MENSA. I often tell my kids that their grand parents and father are all of Genius level intellect so I know they are. too. (it's usually when I am trying to get them to use said intellect, but that is neither here nor there. ) I have never taken an IQ test.

My mother and father-in-law are the most generous people I have ever met. They have given more than anyone could reasonably be asked to give, and then they give more. And they do it without comment or though of repayment. It is just who they are.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I love shoes.
Not the way other women like shoes, though. I am a serial shoe monogamist.

Instead of matching my shoes to my outfit (like any sane, fashion minded woman would) I usually have one pair that I wear all day every day until they are no longer useful. I will search through as many stores as I need to find a pair of shoes that is sturdy, fashionable, useful, and most important comfortable. I will purchase these shoes (provided they are on sale) then I will bask in the afterglow of New Shoes until the toes have been sufficiently scuffed. These will become the shoes that I put on when I get dressed in the morning and take off right before bed every day until one day, I realize my the heels are almost completely worn down (and usually my back and knees have started to ache as well.) Then I will begin the tedious task of searching for a new pair and the process will start all over again.

My closet (and closet shoe hanger, and over-the-door shoe hanger) is full of discarded and forgotten pairs of shoes like so many ex-boyfriends. Each pair has served its purpose for its time but now their service no longer needed. But, like the photograph of an old friend, I hate to actually get rid of any of them. On one hand, I might possibly (but not likely) wear them again and my frugal side has severe difficulties with tossing things that I (or someone close to me) might need in the future. On the other, I kind of like looking through my collection and remembering fondly the period in my life that I wore them. Silly, I know, but when you commit to something it can be hard to let it go.

Since I am primarily an At-Home-Mother, and my part time job is as casual as you can get (they did have to restrict pajamas and sleepwear as appropriate work attire, but other than that, anything goes) I don't really need dozens of different shoes for different outfits. My main uniform of the day is jeans and some sort of casual top so I usually only need shoes that fit in with the Jeans and T-Shirts kind of lifestyle. In the summer, I like to wear running shoes or sneakers. In the winter, I usually find a pair of black boots that have low heels and plenty if cushion. I occasionally keep a back-up "every day" shoe available, maybe a pair of sandals or a second pair of boots in brown. These secondary shoes only get worn on "special occasions" (like when I have walked through mud and I am trying to get the primary pair clean enough to wear again.)

Comfortable shoe wear is really a very important thing for me. It could be said to be a lifestyle choice (no not THAT kind of choice...I wear lipstick.) I have found in the past years that I shop for clothes that can be worn with my current favorite shoe and not the other way around. I have even started to judge the quality of a workplace by how often they have casual dress days. If the policy is business professional five days a week, it is right off my list of potential places I am willing to work. I'm sure some would consider this being overly picky. Offices that require professional dress often pay more than casual offices do, but the trade off of comfort vs. money just isn't worth it to me.

The biggest reason is medical, of course. Fibromyalgia (or whatever the hell I have) causes random pain in my body and I can never tell where it might crop up. But, I can usually limit the potential for pain by being cautious of my actions (not lifting heavy things or bumping into corners) and by making sure that the shock of everyday walking is reduced by wearing really good shoes. I know everyone experiences pain from overdoing it or from walking too far. For me it just hurts more and it takes a lot less to cause the pain in the first place. Walking, say through a department store, for instance, is one of the most excruciating experiences ever. I don't know what kind of floors they use to make them such a torture to walk on, but I dread the mere thought of going "shopping"  without my favorite comfy shoes on (pretty sad, I know.)

My love for sneakers it isn't just a matter of hating dressing up. It has more to do with the actual dress shoes. I have never found any dress shoes that I could put on in the morning that didn't make me want remove my feet along with the shoes at the end of the day. It isn't a matter if looking, either. I have bought expensive shoes, cheap shoes, high heels, low heels, flats, sandals, backless, slingbacks, shoes, ttrendy, sensible, you name it.Only the ugliest of shoes have even come close to the comfort level that I desire, and as a woman, even I have my standards. I have even tried various combinations of inserts in my least painful dress shoe to improve the comfort, if only for a few hours. I always end up with numb toes and aching arches before very long and It is just easier and better for me to skip the whole process of pain and keep my feet happy.

Another good reason for sneakers vs. fashionable shoes has to do with my dear mentor FLYLady. (I know it seems like I ALWAYS do what FLYLady says, but you should try it some time. It works.) FLYLady, or Marla to her friends, says that you should start your day wearing lace-up shoes as soon as you wake up. Yes, even before your first cup of coffee, you should be dressed all the way to the shoes with your hair fixed and make-up on (if you are the make-up kind of person.) This kind of a routine means that you are ready for anything that comes your way from the minute you leave your bedroom. Can YOU think of a situation (other than sleeping in) that would benefit you to be in your PJ's instead of your daily clothes? (I can't either.) The reason that lace up shoes are specifically recommended is that it is difficult to just kick them off to take a break during the day. You have to actually make an effort to remove them and that will make you think twice about anything that needs to be done before you take them off. They won't get lost if they are on your feet and emergencies, or even just last minute errands, are all easier to handle if you don't have to get dressed first.

I used to be very skeptical of the shoe thing that she preaches. I have difficult feet to fit - narrow heels and normal width toes so comfy shoes can be hard to find. For most of my life wearing dress shoes, I was pretty used to hurting. I would kick them off the minute I got home and stayed barefoot until I was FORCED to put them on again. Wearing shoes all day seemed unusually cruel punishment. All of her reasons for wearing them seemed smart enough, but I hadn't found a pair of any kind of shoes that I wanted to wear 8 hours a day, let alone 18.

It wasn't until I got a real fitting from a professional that I found out that shoes aren't always torture devices. I was getting fit for running shoes at the time. I was participating in the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk and I needed two pairs of good sneakers that would last me through the hundreds of miles of training as well as the actual 60 mile walk. I went into a store called Run On Footwear and I found out that their staff is very well trained on different foot shapes and sizes and fits. This guy had me walk around barefoot and examined the way my feet touch the floor and how they roll with each step. Then, he had me try on 15 different brands of shoes until I found one that fit perfectly. I don't use that P word very often, but I loved those shoes so much that I bought two pair for the walk and I wore them until I couldn't wear them anymore.

I had those shoes for a couple of years because I only wore them on the weekends and around town. (I had a regular, day time, dress shoe, office job back then.) I remember absolute amazement of walking all day and not feeling like my shins were going to burst into flames or that my lower back had ceased to support any part of my body anymore. (I really started hating my dress shoes at that point, but I had given up years before on the notion that dress shoes could be comfortable.) Once I knew what to look for in a sneaker and how to tell if they would last for the long term or not, I started to really pay attention to how each pair of shoes fit my feet. I learned that I wear a range of sizes, and that I did not have to be loyal to one size. The actual size that wear can actually range from 6-8 depending on the maker and style. I also learned how certain brands usually fit a certain way compared to another. One brand might always have wide heels while another might have painfully high arch support. Even within a brand there may be different fits for each of the styles, but at least I was able to narrow things down a bit (pardon the pun.) The bad part of all this knowledge was that I finally understood that more expensive shoes (to a point) are better than cheap shoes. The good part is that when you buy expensive shoes, you don't have to buy them as often.

These days, I can wear a pair of shoes for 3-4 months before I have to pitch them and find new ones. That seems a little odd, I know, but remember - I normally only ever wear the same pair every day. A running shoe or sneaker only has a set number of miles it can walk before it loses the cushion and shock absorbency. I can always tell when it is time to start the shoe hunt again when my legs and back are sore at the end of the day. I don't hate spending money on shoes nearly as much as I used to. I now know the difference between cheap shoes and good shoes and I know how much I can and am willing to spend for comfort.

Perhaps all this sneaker wearing has spoiled me and my feet. I'm not sure that is a bad thing. I have an early March birthday which makes my Zodiac sign Pisces (for those of you who actually believe in that stuff.) What I have been told is Pisceans are  loving, laid back, empathic, and HATE to wear uncomfortable shoes. Most Pisceans, like me, can be spotted in a crowd easily because they are the ones wearing the most ragged-looking shoes. Apparently this whole worn-out-shoe business has to do with the feet being the ruling part of a Piscean's body so when the feet aren't happy, the rest of the body isn't either. It can be so difficult to find shoes that make their feet happy that when they DO find a good pair, they hang on to them until they can't even be considered foot wear anymore. I'm not sure if the Zodiac and all the descriptions are true 100% of the time, but I know that when my shoes hurt, I can be a real grouch.

So, if wearing sneakers and makes me a happier person, so be it. I'll wear my sneakers and be happy. And if my some chance, I get called back to work in an office, I hope they have a relaxed dress code, because running-shoes look pretty silly with a dress suit.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Something I find very difficult to deal with on this whole path of healing I am on are the days that are not quite great but aren't terrible either. Maybe they aren't awful, or even bad in comparison to my worst days, but yesterday was awesome and today, just isn't, but it feels much worse than it really is because yesterday was so good.

For two days now, I have been virtually pain free. I filled a new prescription for pain meds three days ago and I was so stoked when I didn't need to take them yet. It might sound a little strange to go get pain meds when I'm not currently in pain, but I have my purposes (and they aren't even related to being a junkie!) I have found that the worst feeling ever is hurting and not having anything to take away the pain. The second worst feeling might be knowing that eventually you will start hurting, and also knowing there won't be any relief when it finally hits. It gives me this constant nervous fear that I will become incapacitated at the worst possible moment. It puts a shroud over my mood and eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I try my best to always keep my Plan B meds at hand for when OTC's just won't cut it.

Just as being afraid of the unrelenting pain prevents me from truly feeling my best, knowing that there is relief available when I really need it gives me a bit of confidence, releases some of the worry, and helps me push through a little longer before I actually need to take meds at all. (I know it sounds like an addict saying that, but I am very careful and there are some risks that must be taken.) My goal is to not have to take any meds at all - prescription or OTC or whatever. The thing is, after 8 years of pretty much consistent pain, I know me and I know what I will be able to tolerate and what I won't.

It is more complex than just whether I am feeling pain or not. Some pain is pretty intense, but it is just pain and I can deal with that. Other times, it is the other symptoms that got along with the pain that make it unbearable even though the pain itself is not that bad. It is those times that I have to be careful and analyze exactly what will help me get back on my feet. It might be fatigue that is causing the pain or the pain that is causing the fatigue so I have to really think to figure out which end to tackle it from. A grouchy mood will almost always accompany either of those situations, and that is really my worst enemy when it comes to being a decent person. It becomes the Perfect Storm for me and I just have to give in and take the meds, and go to sleep, and pray I wake up feeling more human than I did before.

In any case, because I know my limits better than I used to and I am finally receiving a treatment that seems to be working,  I actually have more good days and less bad days than I have had in several years. It is the in-between days that are the most difficult. A not-so-great day right after a really good day just seems a lot worse than it is, by comparison. That, unfortunately, can lead to a downward spiral if I give in to the pain too much or get too much rest. However, it can also lead to a future worse day if I overdo things and push myself too far. That is when the true exhaustion takes hold and it becomes difficult to shake it so I can move on.

Today is one of those so-so days when I am trying to balance activity and recovery. I had a good steady pace yesterday. The night before I was called in to work for a few hours, so I made sure to get a little extra sleep in the morning. I was extremely privileged to be asked to babysit for my good friend and it just makes my day whenever I get to do that. Her older son is just a little gentleman a delight to have around because he is very intelligent and talkative for a boy his age. Her youngest is possibly one of the sweetest baby girls I have ever met (that is saying quite a lot coming from me!) She is as smart as her big brother and well ahead of the curve as far as developmental milestones. Besides that she is one of those kids who is unrelentingly adorable but is completely unconscious of it, which only makes it that much better. Getting to play with these two kids is such a joy for me, that it never seems like work.

After a really great afternoon of snuggling babies and a great coffee conversation with their mom, I went with Wonderful Poppa to the grocery store for a few items for dinner. I was inspired to try a new dish for dinner and I had to pick up a few items I don't normally keep on hand. Then, I got a call from my boss asking me to come in to work again. I quick mental check on my overall energy store told me that I would need a nap to make it until 12:00 or later, so after the shopping, I crawled under the covers and WP volunteered to make dinner for us. (Of course, it came out beautifully and all three of my girls enjoyed it and cleaned their plates and asked for more.)

This is where things started to slip, I think. When I laid down for that short nap, I took a preemptive dose of my prescription pain meds, knowing that they would be in full effect by the time I would most likely start really hurting at work. This plan actually worked better than I thought it might. I was able to complete my shift for the first time in about a month (very productively, I might add) without being in an extreme amount of pain. I worked up an appetite, too, so I grabbed a snack on the way home (Jack in the Box after midnight has got to be the best/worst thing in the whole world) and went pretty much right to bed.

This morning, though, I was not feeling nearly as good as I had hoped I would. The pain meds worked so well that they tricked me into working a bit harder and faster than I should. By the time I woke up, the meds had worn off and I was wishing I could just amputate my left arm at the shoulder and be done with it. On top of that, since I ate right before bed, the meds that I take to help me sleep didn't work nearly as well as they should have. I took longer to fall asleep than normal and then I didn't sleep completely through the night like I should have. I was still really tired this morning, even after getting what amounted to a full night's sleep.

So, looking at my list of To Do's today felt like looking at a plan to climb halfway up Mt Everest - not completely un-doable, but certainly more than I felt I could manage. I canceled a few of the appointments I had and decided to stick with the at-home portion of my List so that I could take my time and relax when I needed to. That's when I started to beat myself up, mentally for not pushing myself harder to keep up the pace of the last few days. I don't feel so awful that I need to crawl under a rock and be forgotten, so why am I giving up and giving in?

What I have to keep in mind (and what WP helped me remember this morning) is that the path to becoming healthy is not a straight and steady incline.  Some days I am going to make it really far up the hill and I will feel great. Some days I am going to backslide and lose ground no matter what I try. The vast majority of my days will be neither of those. I will make small improvements day by day and I might not even realize I am doing it. Just because one day was super great, doesn't necessarily mean the next will be. Having a slightly worse day doesn't mean I have slid back to rock bottom, though. It is just another day on the path up the hill.