Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trying to leave Overwhelmed Lane.

borrowed from LOL Zombie

What did I used to tell my kids when they needed to do a project that seemed overwhelming? Break it down.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I'm feeling mired in the Land of Too Much Information, stalled out on Overwhelmed Lane. What did I do yesterday? Let myself hunker down to picnic on aforementioned lane. What did I do today? Assessed my options, which seemed to me to be 1) let myself run screaming into the night, or 2) follow my own advice. Being chronically fatigued and inherently lazy made option 1, while appealing, seem like much too much effort, so I chose option 2.

Faced with too many supplements and medications at too many different times, I made myself a chart. I suppose I could take a page from my preschool teacher daughter and make a sticker chart where for every time I got the right pills taken at the proper time I get to put on a sticker of my choice. (This worked well to potty-train said preschool teacher daughter as well.) But instead I stuck with making the chart in pretty colors, something like this:

So now all I need to do is get about a half-dozen more of those old-lady-weekly-pill-holders, fill it, and I'm set! Oh, and then remember to take them!

Skimmer's Recap: Sometimes it's just baby steps, yunno?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Life on Overwhelmed Lane.

I'm currently feeling overwhelmed by Too Much Information on health.

In the past couple of months there have been belly issues and gall bladder issues and fatigue issues and I've read and talked to doctors and talked to my naturopath and I'm traveling in the Land of TMI and seem to be stuck in Overwhelmed Lane. GAAA!!

The doctors have said various things like Just Exercise More and I Can Only Treat What the Numbers Say and the naturopath says Think About Acid/Alkaline and Take Two More New Things and by the way you can't take those together and this needs to be before you eat and these need to be this many hours away from food and other vitamins. The naturopath also says You Should Juice and that simply opens up a whole new realm of where do I put another appliance/ one more thing to learn about/ one more thing to clean and GAAAAAA!!!

I'm thinking it's much less work to just be unhealthy. Maybe not as enjoyable in the long run, but easier.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Writing Exercises.

I get the Writer's Digest newsletters in my email because I'm a wannabe-writer. Sometimes I even read them.

Along with their 12 Days of Christmas sale they had a 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises. I thought that since I have felt very much like Winnie-the-Pooh as "a Bear of Very Little Brain," I might use this as a way to both amuse myself and possibly write some posts on my neglected blog. So please "Bear" with me. (Pause for long groan.) See, I've amused myself already!!

Day 1:
Write 10 potential book titles of books you'd like to write.


1- For years I've secretly (in my head) been writing "Ode to a Dysfunctional Life." It's just my life, really. But now I have to think of nine others...

2- "Keeping the Fun in Dysfunction" could be a sister title.

3- "Behind the Shower Curtain." Who are we really when we're stripped down to just our real selves and multiple scented bath products?

4- "The Body in the Tub" First line: "She hadn't expected to see a body when she pulled back the shower curtain that morning." A murder mystery--or is it?

5- "Bark First, Ask Questions Later-- Possibly Useless Things I've Learned From My Dogs."

6- "Fatigue in the Fast Lane." Me feeling like the biggest underachiever ever in a fast moving society.

7- "When Children Amuse." I think I could fill this one just off the stuff my Facebook friends' kids and grandkids say, and of course my own.

8- "Control is But an Illusion"

And I'm out of ideas.

Thoughts for numbers 9 and 10??

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Gall bladder surgery proves effective distraction from Fibromyalgia.

I don't think I'd recommend it, but overall, emergencies involving gall bladders and gall stones and surgery prove quite effective in taking one's mind off other concerns. First there's the amazing pain, then there are the good drugs to rid you of the amazing pain. Then there's the "eeewww" factor of having four slits in the belly, and the fact that you now feel like you've been mule-kicked repeatedly in the torso. All good distractions.

It was suggested to eat a low fat diet for the month after the surgery and allow my body to adjust to the fact that it's missing the gall bladder, previous fat monitor and cholesterol collector. (That's what the Child Surgeon said the stones are made of, cholesterol. How gross is that?) My very kind oldest daughter offered to bring dinner one night: chicken and rice soup for me, and her rich, homemade, eternally yummy macaroni and cheese for the rest of the family. I will not discuss here my jealous and petty thoughts about all that. I am choosing to be The Better Person.

My appetite has suffered with this event, and that takes a lot, so I was grateful for the easily digestible and tasty soup--aaaall week. Yup, I ate soup and saltines for a week. Not too surprisingly I've lost a few pounds. Too bad "a few pounds" on me is like bailing the ocean with a teaspoon, but I'll take it.

And when did I start even thinking about My Friend Fibro again? Not till I slowed down on the Really Good Drugs. I know there are multiple things at work here. The trauma of the surgery and the anesthetic come into play too, so my pain and fatigue is at the moment many-faceted. Some people have said they were ready to get up and get on with life right after surgery while others said they were exhausted for months. Guess there's no single outcome.

Okay, I'm boring even myself here. I'm done.

Skimmer's Recap: Want to forget your current chronic pain? Try a bigger, more acute pain. It worked well for me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Things to do instead of shop on Black Friday.

Who knew that all the Thanksgiving feast loveliness would end in a Friday run to emergency? Too much creamy-goodness for my gall bladder, apparently.

I'd only recently found out I had a gallstone--it had shown up in a routine x-ray my doctor had done. She and  I had agreed that since it was giving me no trouble we wouldn't do anything about it. But now at least I knew where my gall bladder was, something I'd never given much thought to before. But Friday evening that bit of information became quite useful. Yup, that there's my gall bladder where that pain is!

Who needs Black Friday shopping when they can visit the emergency room instead? Dear hubby took me after I'd made a couple of calls to the advice nurses. The pain was reminiscent of labor, but to my knowledge, no baby was forthcoming. (Thankfully. I'd like to leave that kind of thing for the younger folk.)

By the time we arrived at the emergency room the pain had lessened, and I was begging quietly to just go home. But no, a couple of tests later and they had decided to keep me, and two very eager young surgeons visited me with their intentions to remove the offending organ on Saturday morning.

God bless intravenous drugs, everything after placing that cute little cap over my hair was a fog until I was back in a regular hospital room. My nurses were all great, and my baby-surgeons seemed pleased with their handiwork. (Well done, boys.)

And here it is, Monday. Got to sleep in my own bed without the distractions of various alarms going off in the night or doctors walking in at 5:30 to talk to my roommate, flipping on all the room lights. Finally got a shower too. (I knew you'd want to know that.)

How did you spend your Thanksgiving weekend?? Hopefully more traditionally. :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

The As-Finished-As-It's-Gonna-Get Puzzle.

Round puzzles are tricky. The pieces are shaped strangely. Hubby-Dearest finished off the blue section for me in minutes--guess his brain works differently than mine, but then he's one of those sheet metal layout kind of guys who gets that spatially relative stuff.

The funny bit is, there's a piece missing. So it's as finished as it's ever going to get.

We have a kitty who thinks puzzle pieces are the bomb to play with. She even took some back into the bedroom with her. Did she steal the missing piece? Or is it that the puzzle came from a friend's father's house who must have gotten it second hand since the Christmas tag on the box has someone else's names on it entirely?

A Facebook friend said if you look at it really quickly it could be a WWII bomber or large winged creature. Made me giggle.

I'm good with the imperfection. It reminds me that nothing is perfect, this side of heaven. Our health is flawed. Puzzle pieces go missing. I need to keep my sense of humor and see the flaw as a large winged creature, since I get way too frustrated when I see these things as Interruptions rather than life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

More on Cymbalta Withdrawals.

In light of my previous post, "Cymbalta Withdrawal Is the B Word," I thought I'd post a link to an article I came across. It's always SO good to know I'm not the only crazy person out there!

"Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome." Look! It even has a name! An interesting fact in this post written by Christina Lasich, MD, is she has found antihistamines (such as the over the counter Benadryl) to be helpful with withdrawal symptoms. Maybe being sleepy is a good thing when your mood dictates ripping someone's head off due to the mood-swings of the withdrawal...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sharing is our friend.

i'm trying to catch up on some blog reading today. It's an enjoyable pastime, though i'm not getting much done that truly NEEDS to be done this way! But i wanted to share a couple of things from other blogs that i thought you might enjoy.

First: Gorgeous fall photos by Betina at B-Happy, a blogging mom and photographer who has dealt with infertility and adoption and then surprise fertility. She has a knack for capturing a moment whether it's fall's leaves or the antics of her kids. And she has a way of expressing things that makes me smile.

Second: A borrowed idea from SouleMama about savoring a moment from the week over at Sperlygirl. The quote from SouleMama that explains this idea:
{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

i love the idea of finding a way to mark time by the good things. i wonder what way i could do that? They've used photography to capture a moment to remember from their week, but my photography runs more to quickly snapped shots of my dogs being cute--on my iPhone. i tend to be a journaling sort, or a crafty sort. Perhaps a crafty journal?

i need to find a way to be more hopeful. i need to capture good moments to review, rather than only remembering if it was a good week or a bad week in fibro-world, or how i fell short of the things i thought i should have gotten done.

Seriously, follow the links and go see the photos. i think it's stealing if i put them directly in my blog, and i don't want the blog-police to come and take me away to blog-prison, though if it's a prison made of words i might like that.

How would you mark the moment? Thoughts? Ideas??

Skimmer's Recap: Just follow the links and look at the pictures. That's the good stuff anyway!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Crafty Goodness.

Clutch Purse on

"Crafty Goodness" is the name of a folder on my computer desktop. In it resides directions for knitwear patterns, how to dye your own yarn, ideas for multi-media art pieces, weaving, stuff like that. Like I mentioned before, I'm kind of a "Jack of all crafts and Master of none." Crafting is just....GOOD.  And even if I never do all the projects living within that folder, they exist there in that magical land to welcome me when I open their door. An escape for my imagination to a land with unlimited artsy supplies and space to do them, where I can dream and plan... Exploring the different ways to create makes me happy.

Where do you escape?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Things i'm learning from a jigsaw puzzle.

I've been on a bit of a jigsaw puzzle thing lately. When my brain is not working adequately in more fruitful directions, working on a puzzle keeps it busy and out of trouble.

I've been working on this round puzzle. Notice how I've done all the "fun" bits, all the parts with recognizable shapes like flowers and buildings.

This left me with all these shades of blue pieces, nearly indestinguishable. Blecch.

Notice the big blank spot below, waiting to be filled with those same-y same-y looking pieces.

But I just keep hacking away at it,

piece by piece.

Need I actually speak the comparison to life? The fun bits are important too, and they go fast. We can be left with all the boring filler same-y same-y bits. They're important too. At the moment in this puzzle I feel stuck with the blue bits that are hard to figure out. But if I keep slogging along, eventually the whole thing will come together.

Wonder if I should have done a better job of balancing out the boring bits and the fun bits? You know, done some of the blue while there was still some of the colorful bit left to work?

I feel stalled out on the puzzle. Also feeling a bit stalled out on my Pursuit of Health as the removal of Cymbalta does seem to have left me with some agitation and anxiety even after nearly 8 weeks, along with a loss of word and creative mojo. This doesn't feel as clearcut as the decision to quit the Fentanyl. With that I KNEW it was causing more harm than good. With the Cymbalta, I'm less sure.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cymbalta Withdrawal is the B Word.

Wow. The things they do not tell you.

Take this, they say. It will improve your life! And maybe it does for a time before your body gets used to it and you end up with only the side effects and not the benefits. What then?

If you watch television at all, you've no doubt seen the commercials for Cymbalta, one of the wonder drugs of the 21st century. Their tag line: "Depression hurts." As does Fibromyalgia, one of the uses for Cymbalta. Quite honestly, I've dealt with depression over the years, so when I got clocked upside the head with Fibro it did cause some pretty depressed feelings. Chronic pain can drag you down no matter how Pollyanna you want to be.

Apparently, Cymbalta works with the central nervous system to reduce the pain of Fibromyalgia. My doctor and I decided to try it out. And soon I actually felt a difference, a lowered perception of pain at least. One thing about a person who hurts 24/7 is that they're willing to try most anything, (as I realized about myself during the "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" Fentanyl era) with little thought to the aftermath. Common to most of the people I attended Pain Management class with, I would like something to just take the pain away! But we don't always go in with enough information to be clear on what the medication might take away along with the pain. Sometimes we lose more than we gain--like the ability to feel life or deeply enjoy things--and the withdrawals can be a b****!

Today, for example, I see that people from Georgia, Virginia, Texas, and Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (I couldn't tell you where that last one is, let alone pronounce it) have visited my post on "FENTANYL: the Withdrawal Experiment."  How many of the people who've started out innocently and trustingly enough on a plan to reduce their pain levels have found they are now in the pit as they try to pull back out of the pain medication fog? And I'm by no means saying we didn't NEED the help or even benefit from the medication, but boy howdy, we need help getting off!

Common withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta that I've read on message boards online etc:
  • headaches
  • intestinal upsets, bloating
  • brain zaps (electrical feeling/sounding jolts that go through your brain and body)
  • dizziness
  • nausea/vomiting
  • "irritability"
And that's just to name the main few. I put irritability in quotes, because would you call Jack the Ripper "just a guy with poor social skills"?

What I personally experienced:
  • loss of words (it's taken me weeks to write this post)
  • PAIN and muscle fatigue
  • brain zaps
  • intestinal upsets
  • minor dizziness
  • Oh, really? You don't like what I made for dinner? WELL YOU CAN JUST BLEEPING BUY A NEW SLAVE!! *sob*
  • Um, "irritability."
I'm now 5 weeks off the Cymbalta. Still experiencing extra pain and muscle fatigue. Brain zaps are gone. I followed advice from Cymbalta withdrawal online boards (such as and depressionforums) to take extra Omega 3s and drink lots of chamomile tea, and within 3 days the brain zaps were over. The extra dizziness is gone. The words are coming back and I can actually string a few together now to make a complete sentence. The intestinal upsets resolved within the first 2 weeks.

While it has improved, I'm still working on the irritability. Has my true self merely come forward and I am really an impatient, screaming lunatic? I really really hope not. As does my family.

Picture of me withdrawing from Cymbalta.
No, not standing above, the one at the bottom.

Skimmer's Recap: Cymbalta withdrawals are not for the weak. Or for our families.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Isn’t he lovely?

Who knew, when that bouncing baby boy came to us before Christmas in 1988, he’d be with us 23 years later?

When we began as foster parents back then, we had no thoughts of keeping any children. But what do you do when 3 years later the child you've been loving and feeding is now free for adoption, and you can't imagine someone else coming to collect him and his things and driving away? Keep him, of course.

He has the sweetest most compassionate heart. He knows every movie ever made in the past 20 years, and every video game sold. I can't even imagine my life without him.

It just had to be said. (Especially since I took this really great photo of him after a wedding.)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy La-Z-Boy.

Lousy La-Z-Boy
Dear La-Z-Boy:

With dreams of reclining comfort, we set out to purchase couches from you. No more low-cost disposable couches from Levitz, no more build-it-yourself from Ikea, we were going to Do It Right and buy grown-up furniture. Wads of money in hand (since your product does not come cheap) we set out for your Pleasanton store.

After much sitting and reclining, we decided on a couch and loveseat so new they weren't even in stores yet. Their lines were clean and pleasing, and we were assured they were practically identical to a chair we tried in store. Looking forward to many long years of happy lounging, I special ordered a sturdy fabric of chocolatey-brown loveliness and waited excitedly.

We repainted and scrubbed and organized in anticipation, and finally, two months later, they arrived. And just 2 short months after that, the cushions were breaking down and the mechanisms squawked and swayed. The previously fluffy back cushions were flat and the fabric hung loosely, the seat cushions were flattening uncomfortably. Hopefully a one time "mistake" at the factory, perhaps workers who decided to start their weekend drinking early?

Many emails and phone calls and photos and a service call later, you agreed to replace our couches with a different model. Back to the store we went--the store, I might add, that decided they would no longer carry the Braxton model we had purchased, due to its low quality.

Torn between the desire to have the fabric color of my choice or having somewhere comfortable to sit sooner rather than later, we decided to pick something readily available in your warehouse. So only 3 months after delivery of our first couches, we were sitting pretty on some different caramel-colored goodness. And we all lived happily ever after, right?

Wrong. We've had these couches for less than a year, 7 brief months to be exact. One entire seat cushion has needed replacing. The cable pull that releases the foot rest where my hubby sits broke off. His end of the couch slopes to the back corner. The back cushion in the same seat has flattened more than the rest of them.

Service calls take anywhere from 1 to 2 months to happen, parts take another 2 weeks to the more likely 8 weeks to receive, and not till those parts are received do you set up a visit to do the repair.

I've welcomed a variety of La-Z-Boy service technicians into my home. They've all been lovely people, but I don't want to meet the entire staff of the La-Z-Boy service department. I just want my thousands of dollars worth of couches to do their job and last longer than their much less expensive Ikea counterparts.

Yesterday I sent photos of the end of the couch where I sit and the end of the couch where my husband sits, to show the obvious difference between them. Your technician's advice was that we should "rotate" where we sit and not always sit the same place. Perhaps if the product you've designed for seating cannot be used for sitting, you should rename it "magazine rest" or "decorative flat area."

My friend Linda tells me that she and her hubby have the best La-Z-Boy recliners ever. Now this is beginning to feel personal. Have we somehow offended the La-Z-Boy gods? Could I perhaps sacrifice a young chair and break the curse? If you can help me please let me know.

Beleaguered in the Bay Area,

Skimmer's recap: Having hoped that throwing large amounts of money at the La-Z-Boy gods was sacrifice enough to get a sturdy, working couch, julie begins to feel desperate. And don't even get her started on why she trusted someone who can't even spell "Lazy" correctly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wow! Where have i been??

Can't believe it's been a month since i've written anything on here. It's as if i vomited up all that information about my Travels in Fibro Land and just ran out of words.

i've been reading lately more than writing, and finished out the summer with a week of Grandma Camp, otherwise known as having the grandgirls over for the week to shop and sew and eat out and just have fun. Guess the supplements and the gym and all have helped, i didn't collapse till day 5!

Books i've read lately: "Heaven Is For Real" by Todd Burpo, co-written by a lovely lady author i met at Mount Hermon, Lynn Vincent. It's (as its subtitle states)  "A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back." 4 year old Colton's appendix bursts, leading to emergency surgery. Parentally speaking, it's horrifying with all the chance of losing a child and the second guessing of "why didn't we know/why did we wait" questions his family goes through. But as Colton begins dropping bits of information regarding his visit to heaven during his surgery, the bigger picture starts coming into focus as his small town pastor dad and teacher mom begin to try to put together Colton's story. Pretty quick reading, pretty interesting reading. Made me feel better about heaven. i mean, as a Christian i know i should look forward to heaven, but it's just another big unknown to me, and i'm fearful of the unknown. Streets of gold don't compel me, i'm not that into metal. But now i'm curious to see if it's all Colton says.

i've also read the first 2 Sullivan Crisp books by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn and have 1 more to go. Arterburn is part of New Life Ministries, a group of Christian counselors who do workshops and answer calls on their radio show and just generally try to help people to move forward in positive ways in their lives, a theme i am a particular fan of. The first book, "Healing Stones" deals with the subject of when families and marriages fall apart. Sullivan Crisp is the quirky therapist who helps her figure out what healing really looks like in the situation with all its complexities. The second book is "Healing Waters." In this novel Sully the therapist is doing some dealing of his own while helping Lucia, a self-consciously overweight woman, deal with her past and present. Other interesting subjects in this novel are the "prosperity gospel" pseudo-Christian belief system as well as a lost baby and a failing marriage. Both kept me turning the pages--what the heck, it's like free therapy!

What have you been doing lately? What are you reading?

Skimmer's Recap: julie gives herself therapy through grandchildren and books.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fibromyalgia and Me: A Semi-Concise Retrospective, Part 3 of 3.

Year 6. 2010.
I've been blogging about my Fibromyalgia and the rest of my life now for a few years. Oddly there are quite a few people who find me by Googling "how long does it take to withdraw from Fentanyl?" I pray for them, knowing the awful depths withdrawal can drag you. Some of them write me to say “the doctor never told me what this would be like” and I try to encourage them that yes, it’s awful, but you can make it through this.

I know I am still relying too much on ibuprofen and Vicodin--I'm afraid to be in pain. And the Cymbalta I use for the Fibromyalgia seems to no longer help with the pain and all I'm having of it are the side-effects.

I spend the last half of the year clearing my body and brain of any extra medications: the Cymbalta is reduced to the lowest dose (with the blessings of my doctor) and I'm no longer taking my everyday dose of allergy medication since I feel foggy in the brain already. I figure I'll deal with the allergies as they come, and enjoy the clearer head I'll have without the pills. I pretty much quit taking the ibuprofen as it seems to begin eating a hole in my belly after a time. The Vicodin I will use when I really need it. No more preventative pain medications, just "as needed."

Year 7. 2011.

I can read books again!! After collecting books and books since I love to read and simply haven't had the concentration to do so, I'm working my way through the book piles. This is a happy thing.
I also decide that in a year the same amount of days will have passed no matter what I do with them, so what if I step out with a small amount of faith and choose to do something positive for myself with those days?

In mid-February I pull out the business card of a Naturopathic Doctor, given me by a friend a couple of years ago, and make the call. Set up an appointment. And the same week I get an appointment at the gym to talk with a trainer to help me exercise right and not cause flares or injuries that I know would just make me whine and quit. My Get-Well money is in play now.

It's June now. I'm taking steps toward a healthier, less whiney me. Sure, I get frustrated that things aren't moving faster. I still hurt, but it's generally lower, midrange, on the pain scale, the one where 10 means "please hospitalize me or at least shoot me with rhinoceros tranquilizer darts."
I try to deep breathe, I try to still my mind. I wake up better in the morning, but truth is, I'll never be a true morning person.  I still find putting any sort of dinner on the table a pain in the arse since I’m not a big fan of cooking, but not in the same “can’t lift my arms” sort of way.

It may be slow, but it is after all a process, something Merriam-Webster defines this way:
      1 a: progress, advance b: something going on: proceeding
     2 a (1): a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result     (2): a continuing natural or biological activity or function

So the fact that it is indeed something continuous, something that moves forward, is a happy thing, even if it isn’t instant. Fact is, I’m tired of this pain, tired of this fatigue, tired of this body. I can choose to stay the same, or I can choose to move forward.

I mean, why NOT me?

Skimmer's Recap: Fibromyalgia, while not my favorite companion, has taught me things. And baby steps are still steps.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fibromyalgia and Me: A Semi-Concise Retrospective, Part 2 of 3.

Year 3. 2007
I file for disability. I'm turned down. I file again. I can't quite figure out how to do life since my body has turned against me. More pain. I feel weak. I annoy my family by whining and feeling sorry for myself. Grocery shopping seems impossible, putting any sort of meal on the table insurmountable. I try countless supplements. I research more and more. Maybe I can find some secret answer being hidden from me.

I'm obsessed.

Year 4. 2008.
Turned down for disability again. I feel gutted. I know I don't look different—no casts, no missing limbs--but I feel so very different from the person I was a few years ago. My only recourse is to get a lawyer to represent me, someone who knows the system, someone who can take my side in this. If I can't manage two different appointments or events outside the home in a week, how will I ever work again?

My doctor sends me to a 5 week class for Chronic PainManagement. I attend 4 days per week, some days so exhausted by the end of the class that I have to buy coffee to hopefully stay awake for the drive home. We are an odd mix: woman with migraines, men with back surgeries, another woman with Fibromyalgia, another with a neck injury, etc. etc. We are taught to meditate, to do relaxation exercises, to do gentle stretching, to speak only of positive things. We are told not to get involved in each other's lives, yet we do. The few of us with a sense of humor sustain each other in secret moments. We are corrected like small stupid children as they teach these things. This gets in the way of learning. Yet, I learn things.
My husband's dog gets very very sick in the midst of this and dies. We are both devastated. I consider giving up on the class (I only have 1 week left) but those in charge let me take a week off and return to finish.

My pain management doctor tries to kill me with many different heavy opiates. My husband says, "For somebody as stoned as you are, you should be having more fun." I decide to get myself clear of the final one, Fentanyl. The withdrawals are pretty much Satan incarnate.

Year 5. 2009.
The lawyer wins my case. All I have to do is feel humiliated in front of a judge and several others as I listen to them try to invalidate my experience. But I now have disability benefits, a small amount, since I worked part time when I last worked. But it's something, maybe I can use this for my Get-Well money. And clothes, I will surely need some new clothes to get well. And the occasional pedicure.

I am in a full flare of Fibromyalgia total body pain, fatigue, and confused head, when someone decides to fill me in on the “fact” that “if you only ate this way you would be fine.” She also tells me that “at least” I don’t have cancer or diabetes. I look at her and say, “The good thing about Fibromyalgia? You don’t die from it.” She smiles a great big cheerleader’s smile. I continue.” The bad thing about Fibromyalgia? You don’t die from it.” Her face folds in on itself. She quits talking. Finally.

Don't change that dial--i'll be back....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fibromyalgia and Me: A Semi-Concise Retrospective, Part 1 of 3.

Having grown up holding my breath, my whole fight/flight/freeze system was pretty tender already. I think that each major emotional upheaval in my adult life just caused the skin on that system to become more and more fragile, until one day the final emotional hit came that tore through that thin skin altogether.

Year 1. April 2005.
I am doing a program at home that’s a combined upper/lower body set of exercises involving 5 pound hand weights. Suddenly, where I’ve been easily able to do 10 repetitions, I can only do 3 before my muscles simply won’t move anymore. Suddenly, on my first trip down the stairs in the morning, the bottoms of my feet seem filled with rocks. Suddenly, my solid nights of sleep become fewer and fewer, and my body is achy and stiff on waking. I have a few driving experiences where I turn a corner in a perfectly familiar neighborhood and ask myself, "Where am I?" I’m exhausted all day long—every day. What is happening??

I find myself pushing my doctor to actually test me for possible medical explanations. Her answer, (with a look of embarrassment for me,) is that "Sometimes when we deal with our emotional/mental issues, these other pains go away." JUST TEST ME PLEASE.
I am doing my own research online and in the library, and there’s a cluster of medical issues including Fibromyalgia with similar symptoms. It appears to be the least deadly of the bunch. I convince the doctor to test for all the others to rule them out (or not), and finally get her to do the thumb pressure test set up by the American College of Rheumatology on the 18 “tender points” associated with Fibromyalgia.

"Oh." My doctor looks up at my face as she presses lightly on places that made me flinch in pain. "You do seem to have Fibromyalgia," she says in surprise.
This has only taken 10 months, as opposed to the many years that others have suffered with Fibromyalgia before getting a diagnosis. I count myself fortunate.

Thank God I am already seeing a therapist. She helps me stay sane during this time.
Year 2. 2006.

More reading and more reading. More horrible days of exhaustion, my body feels heavy, like gravity has gotten stronger. More full-body pain, some days burning like fire, other days a flu-like aching.  My spirits head to the pits of Hell. I give in to the silly question of "Why me?" when I already know the more realistic question is "Why not me?" We are broken people in a broken world. Our bodies break down. Things go wrong.

I have a sleep study, and find out I do have sleep apnea. Maybe using the cpap machine will solve the poor sleep/waking up exhausted issue.
 It doesn't. Why not me?

to be continued...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Fibromyalgia and the Perils of Not Listening to My Body.

But there were sales, and the opportunity to go shopping with a friend at the outlets. And then there was my trainer the next day. So I didn't listen when I should have.

Shopping and training and pain, Oh My.

You see, in Fibromyalgia, the body talks. Much earlier than they used to, the muscles yell "ACK! NO MORE!" But I must be listening.

Nothing about me looks different to remind myself or others that something is different. No cast, no limp, no wheelchair. Just the same Julie that walked the earth 20 years ago, give or take a pound or 40.

A person with a back injury may walk with a cane. I've known one of those. A person with a broken bone wears a cast. I've done that. Even a person with a cold probably has a red nose. But with Fibro, we just look like our same old selves, because the working of it is inside us, in our central nervous system, where our bodies tell us that a gentle wave of pain is actually A TSUNAMI RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

The funny bit (well, not at the time maybe) is that when I am in a flare, having overdone and caused a tsunami, even my brain gets scrambled. Those days my brain is a shaken snow globe, and the flakes of snow are pieces of words and thoughts and scribbles that just can't quite connect to make a whole ANYthing. I once saw a movie where a confused woman wore her bra on the outside of her shirt to work. When I started experiencing the "brainfog" of Fibro, I thought, "Oh no!! That could be me!"

Honestly at those times I fear for myself and my decisions. Should I be trusted with a car, or trusted out of the house at all?

I was there for all of last week and into this week, in FibroFlareLand. Hadn't really visited there for more than a day at a time in several months. Got a little cocky about that. Felt a little powerful. Thought I was strong.

And again I was humbled--I was reminded that I have this thing, this interloper and interrupter. But since this is my life right now, I'm trying to learn to muddle through--trying to show up for the gym, show up in my family's life, show up for myself.

These times of weakness remind me that in myself I'm not really all that strong. I'm at the mercy of this thing that lives in my body. I want to be all spiritual and be able to calmly say, "God's strength is shown in my weakness," but in all honesty, I don't know whether I'm doing that for Him. I'm still not sure what that looks like in this case.

The flares bring me down, but not as far as they used to, so I must be learning. Maybe that's where His strength comes in. I'll keep you posted if I ever figure it out.

What's your place of weakness?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fibromyalgia and the Gym: Things I've Noticed Besides People in Spandex.

I have passed the three month mark in my Experiment In Fitness. I started back at the gym in mid-February, and started seeing a naturopathic doctor about the same time. My trainer at the gym has kept me from hurting myself and my naturopathic doctor has supplemented me toward better energy. These are the things I have noticed:

At the gym I can now add light hand weights to my routines. I have better control of the movements my trainer guides me through. I now have to warm up at a faster pace on the treadmill than I did originally in order to start moving my heartrate up, and I've upped my pace on the treadmill altogether from 3 miles an hour to 3.3 miles an hour and added an incline to keep my heartrate in the workout zone. Doesn't sound like much, but it's a change in the right direction, right?

I sleep better and on less medication than I needed for a night's sleep than before. I wake up less groggy. I am better able to do sustained activity than I was previously. I don't see a huge difference, but my dear hubby says it's significant.

Due probably to both supplements and exercise, my flares have been minimal. Where previously I could expect one week out of 4 to be extra fibro-achy and difficult, I've had only a few days in the whole 3 months. This to me, a whiner from way back, is huge. I think it may be even huge-er to my family.

I believe the supplements have supported my efforts toward the exercise, and the exercise is supporting my efforts to take better care of myself. Slowly but surely, forward steps are being taken and small results are being seen.

One reason I started this trip down Supplement-and-Exercise Lane was the thought: In a year from now, what could be different about my health and fibromyalgia? A year will pass one way or the other, so why not DO something?

I've had a number of people tell me that either they or a friend had fibromyalgia "and one day it just went away." I'm not sure if that is intended to encourage me (it doesn't, by the way) but rather than wait around and hope for a cure by The-Raw-Foods-Diet/Prayer/Misdiagnosis or Magic, it seemed prudent to take some steps of my own. And what do you know? The steps are moving me forward.

Where I felt "stuck" in the quicksand of this thing called Fibromyalgia, I'm feeling a bit more in control. What is your area of "stuck-ness"? What choices could you make to improve some part of your life that otherwise will be just the same a year from now?

Skimmer's Recap: Julie finds no magic in her past 3 months, just some serious acts of the will--but finds them oddly satisfying. However, she does not anticipate wearing spandex any time soon. Or ever.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Memorials and Memories.

I sat listening to stories about a friend's father, being bathed in the loving laughter of those around me. They were good memories, strong memories, the kind to bring back out and savor when you need to smile. One told by my friend was of her childhood, of when her father would be ready to leave for church in the morning but the rest of the family wasn't. He would announce, "I will be leaving for church in two minutes and thirty-six seconds!" His exacting times to push the family out the door became an inside joke to those who knew him and loved him.

I also saw the tears of those who would now miss him, for we sat in pews of the church he'd attended for his memorial service. Memories of his strong faith in the God who created him and the ways he kept that faith strong were shared by those he had touched. He memorized scripture and sang hymns, and urged--maybe even nagged--those he loved to do the same. And they were going to miss it all.

I can't pretend to know what other people think, but being Queen Of The Navel-Gazers, I tend to feel self-reflective after memorial services: what have I done to be remembered? How do I want the rest of my days to look?

How do memorial services affect you?

Skimmer's Recap: Julie, who attended her friend's father's very positive memorial service, decides she would also like to be remembered with laughter and cake.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Me At the Gym.

Walking along on the treadmill I looked around me at the women of various shapes and sizes running on their treadmills. I thought, "why not try it?"

So I did. For all of  9 seconds.

I would need to severely batten down the, er, "hatches" for that sort of thing. And by "hatches" I mean all the wobbly bits. Of which I have many.

Maybe in the distant future.

No time soon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fibromyalgia and My New Friends: Pills and Exercise.

These are some of my new friends.

 Dr. Ballew, my naturopathic doctor, is working with me toward better health. As mentioned in my previous post, "Fibromyalgia and Spitting for Health," we had tested for hormonal imbalances. And by "we" I mean she prescribed the test and I provided the spit.

She started me on Magnesium Citramate (a clever word for Citrate-Malate), a Basic B Complex and a good brand of fish oil, based on our initial hour and a half appointment in which I blabbed a full history of *Me*. And she never once glazed over or drooled. (A very good skill for a healthcare professional.)

Most Fibromyalgia patients are low in magnesium, B vitamins are supposed to be good for energy, and Omega 3s, well, EVERYbody knows THOSE are good! (What are they good for again? Anybody??)

The newer addition to the Pill Arsenal is the Adrenal Stress End, the one mentioned in the previous post that's made of "porcine adrenal." Is the word "porcine" calculated to sound more scientificky than "pig"? I mean, aren't we still talking about the same thing? No matter what we call it, somebody is going to be thinking "Oh poor Wilbur, and Charlotte worked so hard to save him!" But I am willing (and even happy) to eat bacon, so I suppose I can ingest this part of the pig as well, at least in capsule form.

Also new, the addition of the progesterone cream. Apparently progesterone can aid in the balancing of hormones even when the estrogen is in correct range (and since mine is in pill form, it is.)

Things I've noticed. I'm about 2 months into the first group of pills and 1 month into Wilbur's cousin. I'm also about 2 months into my time back at the gym (it only seems like longer...) and 2 months into an often weak attempt to eat less processed carbohydrates and sugar. I am beginning to sleep a bit better, and wake up a bit earlier. I'm still aware of the general ache of FM, but it's a bit quieter.

I am cautiously optimistic--since there is a spectrum in which my Fibro affected energy moves, I still tell myself, "Well, you have felt this good other times in the past 6 years." Hubby says I am much improved, so maybe there is more than I am able to see in myself. Time will tell.

Of course, in the Fibromyalgic world there are always surprises. The past couple of days have also brought a resurgence of weird sensations in my legs and feet--the feeling of bubbling under the skin, a kind of cold or hot sensation. Maybe Restless Legs Syndrome? I dunno. But this is just the dubious beauty of Fibro, our nervous systems do some strange stuff!

Skimmer's Recap: julie doesn't anticipate turning into a ball of energy any time soon, but at least her pill and gym regime keeps her off the street and out of trouble.

Fibromyalgia and Spitting for Health.

 If i were a guy, the whole day would have gone smoother.

The test recommended by my new Naturopathic doctor required spit, lots of it. Four vile vials, in fact.

i think spitting is gross. But spit i did.

The point of the test was to check hormonal balances, one of which is cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex. Cortisol is related to stress, something we all deal with daily. Here's a great article on on the Cortisol-Stress connection that explains what cortisol is responsible for and how stress affects it.

But why saliva? Why spitting instead of the pee-all-day-and-save-it-in-an-embarrassingly-large-jug, like my Kaiser health care had me do? According to Dr. Ballew, my Doctor of Naturopathic Sciences and new friend in healthcare, the urine test only measures the overall cortisol level, when what is needed to see how the adrenals are functioning is to see the various levels throughout the day. Like Dr. Ballew explained to me, and the article also explains, the way the hormone should work is to be highest after you have just slept, since you have (allegedly) just awakened from refreshing, restorative sleep. There is a natural downward curve throughout the day in its production, leading at last to the lowest levels at bedtime, when we need to be relaxed and ready for that (alleged) refreshing sleep.

BUT, what are some of the most common complaints with Fibromyalgia? A lack of restorative, refreshing sleep, waking up tired, and general fatigue. Then there's that chronic pain issue, the generalized aching, burning pain. Studies have shown sleep deprivation can cause--guess what--pain. The brain needs good sleep to repair itself or it becomes impaired.

My cortisol level seems to be on its own special little curve--below normal when i wake, then leveling out about 4 pm. But no dropping slowly till bedtime, just full speed ahead at the 4 pm. level. Could this explain the poor sleep i experience? Maybe the difficulty waking up? (Never having been a morning person you can only imagine how Fibro has taken that to new depths of un-morningness.)

If this ends up having a large impact on my health, but how many other Fibromyalgia sufferers are slogging along with the same problem, but they don't have a lovely Dr. Ballew, Naturopath, on their team? I do wonder. Symptoms are many and varied in FM (Fibromyalgia) with some similarities, but could this be one of the big causes? Stress=stressed adrenals that perform poorly=bad mornings and bad nights. Hmm.

My new supplement is made from pig adrenals. Sounds gross, but if i can get a better night's sleep and have a better morning, i'll pig 'em down.

Skimmer's recap: Turns out that spitting can be our friend, but aren't you glad i didn't put an illustration of it up there at the top of the page?

Monday, April 18, 2011

julie's Gym Mathematics.

I suppose this could also be titled, "why julie doesn't get very far ahead."

Fibromyalgia and Just Blogging Along.

I don't know which is more embarrassing: that my blog shows only 3 followers OR that I'm not sure even they read it anymore. And then every once in a while I get a comment like this one, posted on my most recent post, "Fibromyalgia and My Baby Steps Toward Physical Health."

Nancy said...

I mentioned on Facebook tonight that I'm going for my first appointment to a Pain Management Clinic tomorrow and a friend told me about your blog. It has been a blessing to me. I was diagnosed about 7 years ago and honestly have forgotten what it's like to feel good. I've tried just about everything, have prayed for healing, and prayed for contentment. It feels like a rollercoaster between hope and acceptance. Thank you for sharing so honestly about your own struggle.

Redemption! Suddenly there is a purpose for my awkwardly unseen disorder--and my unceasing need to talk about it. So thank you, Nancy! I struggle, I write, I share on this blog (which gives my hubby a much appreciated break from me sharing with him) and how great is it to find out it's helped somebody!

Happy *sigh*.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fibromyalgia and My Baby Steps Toward Physical Health.

This is what surrounds me at the gym as I step on the treadmill.

Slender, long-legged women casually step onto the treadmills on either side of me, put their headphones on, crank up the speed and start running. RUNNING, i said.

i smile vaguely into the middle distance, pulling my belly in, and act as if i am not breaking into a slight mist from walking.

But it's baby steps that will get me there.

"There" is this mystical place in my future where i don't puff along at 3 miles an hour, where i can easily bend to tie my shoe, where i don't see my next decade painted in fibromyalgic shades of pain and fatigue.

i have a trainer. She tells me, "Baby steps. We will take baby steps." i work to do 8 repetitions of simple floor exercises. The first day of training my body loudly informs me that 10 repetitions will set the fibro beast in motion. So we do 8. There's a certain point when my body tells me I Am Done. The muscle fatigue sets in like the fangs of an angry dog, far different from the regular pain of exercised muscles. So we take 8 baby steps.

Three times a week i go to the gym. It's been three weeks now. One day with the trainer, two more days to repeat the exercises and walk on the treadmill next to the Looks Awesome In Spandex crowd. So far i don't listen to music while i walk, instead i people watch, think, pray, and check my heart rate--repeatedly.

Today i noticed on the heart rate zone graph on the treadmill that i am training at the rates for a 70 year old. But that's okay, baby steps. Perhaps before i turn 60 in three years i will be able to train at the rate for a 65 year old.

i think i'm doing this for good reasons this time. i have no illusions that i will again look like i did at 21. i'm not pre-buying a wardrobe 6 sizes smaller. i am aiming for flexibility and strength and energy, things i've lost to this disorder. i had thought i might somehow make peace with my fibromyalgia, but even if i never do, perhaps i can at least learn to smile vaguely into the middle distance when i see it, and just keep walking.

Skimmer's Recap: Feeling fed up with fibromyalgia, julie subjects herself and others to talk of treadmills and spandex.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On His Birthday: To My Brother Michael Who Left the Family 22 Years Ago.

every year
on this same date
i say to myself,
"huh, didn't you have a brother once?"
i remember him from
my childhood
his childhood
my sister's childhood.
and in my head
i say to my brother,
"didn't you have a sister once?
do you remember me from
your childhood?
my childhood?
our sister's childhood?
do you ever miss us?"
but i guess not.
we never hear anyway
if he does.

no longer take
it personally
because, after all,
it's his loss.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Jack of All Crafts and Master of None Tries Weaving: Project 1 finished!

Here's the finished project, still on the loom. I think of it as "Sea to Sky."  The blue at the bottom is the ocean, and then there is sand and dunes and hills and finally sky. I love the textured yarn one near the top! I imagine that to be a tree and flower covered hill.

The cool thing? It looks just as good upside down. It was just a bunch of curved lines designed to teach how to use the "slit" stitching technique of tapestry on the dvd "Tapestry Weaving Part 1" by Nancy Harvey. Mine isn't as smooth as perfect as hers, but it also isn't in 1980s colors like hers. I just had fun! I may actually figure out how to use it on the wall.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Problem With Mother-Pain.

Papa Jean, my stepdad, in his horsey days.

Recently my aunt sent me an album my mother had put together in 1999, just a year plus before she died of cancer in January 2001. My mother had wanted my aunt to have it after her death, but now, 10 years later, my aunt felt I should have it as part of my family history.

I feared looking at it, so let it sit for days on the dining room table. With a relationship as complicated as mine was with my mom, many emotions come into play, not all of them belonging to Grown Julie. So I waited. But today I decided to Take The Plunge, Dive Right In, phrases that oddly refer to another fear of mine: water.

The album is the story of a life, Margie's, from childhood through marriage and parenting, back around to single-ness, and then into the last third of her life with the love of her life, Jean.

The photos are amazing--of her family and my father's family, of our family and of Jean's family, and some I'd long hoped to see of Jean in his cowboy garb on a horse. There are photos of the new "family" she gathered in her new life in Nebraska where she moved to be with Jean at about the same time I was getting married in California.

It's her edited life: "Margie's Life, Lite." Without most of the anger and pain and accusations that colored big parts of the Full Fat version. I marveled at all the smiling faces, the photos of outings and birthdays and holidays. Pretty pictures of the decorating and remodeling she did in the house I grew up in, not of the broken pieces of dishes and punched in walls in the photos she had sent to me after her death to remind me of things my father had done. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was all a pretty happy story. Looking at the pictures I can imagine her as the kind of mother I could call to chat and tell her something funny one of the kids said, rather than calling and ending up defending myself for not being willing to say my father did not do those things to my sister or me.

I finish the album and sob. In my head I'm writing the thank you letter to my aunt: "Thanks so much for the album, the pictures are great and let me into some parts of her life I wasn't there for. I always wished I was a stronger person: strong enough to see the person beneath the harsh words, stronger than her desire to hurt me, stronger than many things that kept me from being a part of Margie's life in her later years."

I don't know what I will really write. Will I mention the victories I have felt in my struggles toward Sound Mental Health over those same years? Will I mention how I finally feel the Mother-Pain will no longer cripple me for weeks after contact, but hopefully only hours? Will I say sure I regret that I wasn't always The Good Daughter, but I knew I would never be the Good Enough Daughter? Probably not. Probably I will thank her for the photos and for her thoughtfulness in sharing them with me.

The problem with Mother-Pain is that no matter how far I've come in life, it will apparently always be waiting to jump out and bite me. But at least now, after enough therapy and prayers and time, the pain doesn't last as long.

Skimmer's Recap: Just when Julie thinks she's getting a handle on that whole Mental Health thing, she realizes "a handle" is but an illusion, and there's always more to learn.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

On Clutter: An Unofficial Poll.

I am curious about what you think.

I've been a clutterbug forever. First, I am a sentimental collector of memories. Things that remind me of either a fun event or even just a good time in my life--well, pretty much anything that brings a warm-happy to me will be collected.

Also I run too much on emotion-brain rather than logic-brain to be very tidy. I tend to end up with piles here and there: the books I want to read, the magazines with articles or creative ideas I liked, the bills I need to pay. My brain tells me that if I put any of those things "away" I will forget about them. Knitting patterns, yarn, scrapbooking supplies, you name it, I have a pile or two somewhere.

My theory on my relationship with clutter is that because I don't have a lot of warm-happies from my childhood, I tend to hang onto as many of them as I can manage. Oh, there's also the fact that I'm inherently lazy about cleaning. I go through big spurts of weeding out the excess, but I'm not the best at figuring out how to organize and keep it organized once I've done the weeding.

So for me, lack of logic-brain, out-of-sight-out-of-mind-edness, and sentimentality seem to keep me in a perpetual state of imperfection, clutter-wise.

So here's my unofficial poll part:
Are you a clean person or a clutter person?
Why do you think you are whichever one you are?
How do you solve your clutter overflow?

Really. I want to know what you think.

Skimmer's Recap: While trying to rationalize her messiness, julie asks her friends to engage in conversation so she can further put off any actual work.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jack of All Crafts and Master of None Tries Weaving: Part 2

Isn't this pretty?

 i love the light shining through the lovely warping i did on my loom. And it didn't even take too many bad words to get it here! The loopy bits of string are the heddles. Two bars have these strings so that one bar at a time can be lifted

 into these holders at each side of the loom. Each of the two bars holds every other thread on the warp (the vertical threads) so they can be lifted to pass the weft (the horizontal threads) through. This makes your basic over-under weave.

Here you can see the two bars with their tediously done heddles. What you don't see is the blood, sweat and tears it took to get it this far. There were also Magic Eye sightings of a unicorn and a possible emu.

Once my psyche had healed adequately from the warping experience, i started my Tapestry weaving dvd by Nancy Harvey. And the fun thing is, you get to see 1980s Nancy AND 1990s Nancy! Other than the funky 80s glasses she was wearing she didn't look very different. Future Nancy shows up to add some information to Current Nancy's lesson.

80s Nancy has us start this way: a little weaving of plastic bag strips to start spreading the warp out evenly, then a hem (that's the dark brown in my weaving below.) i can't help but think of it as a footer. The "cartoon" is pinned behind the area to be woven--that's the enlarged picture outline you see. Calling it a cartoon is just the whimsy i need. See that cool tool? It's to beat down the weft as you weave it.

Notice the loopy bits above the weaving? This is called "bubbling," also a very whimsical term. Apparently bad bubbling can cause problems, bringing to mind one of my favorite life sayings: "Any bubbling worth doing is worth doing well."

If this was a yoga pose it would be called something like "downward facing camel."

And from those humble beginnings, i am this far. Nearly done with project 1!

Skimmer's Recap: Glad to be done with the warping, and now there's not much "weft" to do. (Weaving humor. Deal with it.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Life: Embracing It.

I'm feeling, closing in on 6 years after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, 10 years after my mother's death sent me to therapy, and 57 years into life, like I actually want to embrace life. My head's in a better place than it's been, my body is getting better at dealing with the fibro pain, and surely all that is worth shouting "hallelujah!" about.

I've dealt with depression most of my life--coming from crazy can do that. Honestly, in all my years I have never thought "whoopee! I hope I live to 100!" To a depressed brain, that sounds like a sentence, not a gift. But mentally off-kilter mothers and such be thanked, since at least that relationship sent me to make new friends of Mental Health Professionals, and they've helped my brain become better balanced.

At these realizations I find myself (tentatively) hopeful. It's difficult to be a negative positive person, since one should cancel out the other. But at my core, given God's grace in my life, I am positive, I have hope. But life has at times taught me to be negative, to be fearful. Yet I desire to Embrace-- hope, life, the fact that I'm constantly surprised to find myself in my late 50s.

Thinking about embracing life got me thinking about other times of learning to embrace. When my oldest daughter was dating her first husband, he startled me by hugging me. I wasn't used to that, but it made me rethink my physical and emotional distance from people.  My in-laws were not physically affectionate people, but when they retired and moved a 7 hour drive away, my husband and I decided we would start hugging them. It was awkward at first, but--well, but nothing, it was always awkward. When my close friend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer of stage Too Late, she refused to talk about the possibility of dying. Her friends didn't know what to do with that--how could we prepare for the loss? Say goodbye? I learned to embrace the simplicity of saying "I love you" whenever we parted. Now I'm a serious hugger, holding all my friends close to me while they're in my life.

It's important to demonstrate how we feel toward each other. In the same way I've learned to embrace my friends and others I love, I'm hopeful to learn to cherish my future, and not fear it.

Skimmer's Recap: julie thinks about life, gets all mushy-wushy about it, but publishes the post anyway.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

About a Book: "Lord, I Feel So Small" by Jon Drury

"Lord I Feel So Small: Using God's Yardstick to Conquer Self-Doubt"

Jon Drury is a man who speaks from a brutally honest heart. But I mean that in a good way.

The author's struggle with the feeling of never measuring up, of never being quite as useful/smart/talented as the other guy, strikes a familiar chord in me. How any of us ends up in that rut doesn't matter--the point is, we can climb up out of the mud. And Jon's the man to show us how, because he's been-there-done-that, and he's on a mission to show us the way out.

Visually the book is a pleasant read, broken up into achievable chunks within each chapter. Call it my short attention span, or my inability to remain awake when faced with solid lines of prose, but this is important to me.  But even more importantly, the text is conversational and approachable, like you're just sitting down and having a really good chat with the guy.

One way he makes the truth of what he says more accessable is by using stories from his own life and from others. I love when authors include stories of other people, because let's be real, folks, some of those stories make me happy to be me. But more to the point, Jon sees his own life story with clarity and honesty, then uses it to illustrate how to pull ourselves out of the muddy mess of our own flawed thinking.

If the many years I've spent with members of the Mental Health profession have taught me nothing else they have taught me this: our human thinking can be very, very flawed. How can we learn to challenge our thoughts? One way is by reading books like this one. Take a look at the sections and chapters to get an idea of the steps he leads you through in this re-look, re-think journey out of the muddy rut of self-doubt.

 Section 1-- Crafting the Foundation
Chapter 1: "Lord I Feel So Small!"
Chapter 2: Foundations for Significance
Chapter 3: Yardsticks of True Worth

 Section 2-- Feelings That Immobilize Us
Chapter 4: Transforming Despair Into Hope
Chapter 5: Morphing Fear into Courage
Chapter 6: Birthing Healing Out of Grief
Chapter 7: Discerning the Voice of Our Enemy

or Section 5-- Experiences That Hamper Us (this section especially hit home for me)
Chapter 16: Converting Failure to True Success
Chapter 17: Turning Humiliation into Heroism
Chapter 18: Moving From Isolation to Friendship
Chapter 19: Conquering Worry with Trust

And this is only a sampling of the 20 chapters.

I was pleasantly surprised by the "Think It Through" questions at the end of each chapter. "Jesus!" is not the answer--at least to each of these questions. No, folks, sorry to say, if you make use of these you will actually have to Think It Through. I found them much more useful than the easy answer type questions you often find in study books, and more likely to actually provoke thought. And thinking is our friend.

The more you give this book in time and thought, the more you will gain. But even if you can only give it a quick read, there's much to be gleaned. I, however, was unable to give it a quick read, wanting to learn enough to put my hip-waders away for good and step into summer sandles. I'm a flip-flops kind of girl, and flip-flops don't fair well down in the rut.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Jack of All Crafts and Master of None Tries Weaving, Part 1

this was titled "Lowell Mill Girls" on the Emory University site.
Once upon a time in a land not so far away, a girl went to college. In this land, the field of Home Economics was not frowned upon as sexist and worthless, so this girl learned many intriguing skills with fibers. She learned to tat, she learned to knit fancy patterns, she learned clever tricks for the sewing of clothes. But her favorite, the one that stayed in her mind for years, was that of Weaving.

The loom was large, and the girl was fascinated. "Ah, if only I may be so fortunate as to put my bustle on and use a loom again in the future after I leave this place," she dreamed.

In later years the girl tried a small tabletop loom, but it was too small. She tried a rug loom, but alas it was too large and bulky. Then she received the Schacht Spindle Company's tapestry loom from her husband for Christmas and, you guessed it--it was *Just Right.*

Here's my Schacht Tapestry Loom hanging out in the guest/fiber-craft room. It's about two feet wide, but the size is no problem since we also bought the A-Frame stand for the loom. It adjusts to whatever angle is comfortable for use. And it's pretty all on its own and smells good, of freshly finished wood. So far, I love this company! I emailed them with a question and ended up having a lovely, helpful exchange with Denise.

One of my favorite things about any craft is reading up on it. I bought a book called Tapestry Weaving by Kirsten Glasbrook that got the best reviews on Amazon, and a dvd called Tapestry Weaving 1 by Nancy Harvey that's like a little class where the teacher takes you through three different projects to teach you different techniques.

Tapestry Weaving, the Schacht Tapestry Loom instructions, & Tapestry Weaving dvd.
My other favorite thing is gathering the bits and pieces needed to do the craft, in this case the fibers. I did my shopping in the guest/fiber-craft room stash. There is, let's just say, an "adequate" amount to shop in.

going with a green, blue & purple vibe for the first project.
In all fairness, when the loom first came I used some string to try warping it (those are the long threads that go top to bottom.) It's tricky till you get the hang of it--and in all fairness, I never really got the hang of it on that try.

So I followed the instructions to made the reusable heddles--those are the strings that lift every other warp yarn to make a basic over-under weave. The instructions showed a simple way to get them all the right size.
Using the heddle bar support to make reusable heddles. Then they all match! Imagine that.

This is the cool bunch of matching little tied strings I ended up with. Yes, I made them in bunches of 15 because I knew I would never keep track of the total otherwise.

And now to warp the loom. It does this cool "Magic Eye" thing while you're trying to do this, one of those, "is this in front or behind? Can I squint just right and make it into a picture?" This just adds to the thrill of the chase.

Okay! I'm finally starting to get the hang of it--4 inches into it. I still have another 11 inches to go.

Time for a nap. I'll keep you posted.

Skimmer's recap: julie likes crafts and things with yarn, and loves cool tools, but rarely wears her bustle anymore.

Basic article on weaving terms: