Challenges in the midst of blessings

What are your favorite childhood memories?  Are there reoccurring times you remember fondly?  Did you have a fort in your backyard?  Did you go to camp each summer?  Did you go skiing each winter?

Photo Credit: caribb via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: caribb via Compfight cc

Yesterday morning we were blanketed in 11 inches of white.  The entire day was spent living in a beautiful snow globe.  This morning we woke to another 12 inches on top.  It’s truly beautiful.  Even more so because I no longer have to leave the house on days like this now that I’m a stay-at-home mom/grandma/trophy wife.  (I like the trophy wife the best, except when my son reminds me that everyone gets a “thanks for playing” trophy these days.)

Where was I?  Ah, yes, snow!

These multiplying inches bring back great memories of playing outside when I was a kid.  Growing up in Michigan usually meant snow in late November/early December that remained through February.

We lived on a dead end road and the snow plow would push a glorious mound of white playground and leave it three feet past our driveway.  We spent hours as kids digging holes in that mountain, climbing to the peak, and sliding back down on our bellies.

Having fibromyalgia has changed winters in Michigan for me.  By this evening the temperature will be -40 with the wind chill factor.  (That is extremely cold, even for these parts, and we haven’t seen this much snow at one time in quite a few years.)  It hurts down deep in my bones.

Saturday my daughter and I shared the shoveling duties.  I was having a pretty good pain day and my husband was helping friends move and my son was battling the flu.  That left all the scooping to us girls.  My wrists and shoulders are still sore today but the job had to be done.

Despite the aches and pains, I really enjoyed getting outside in the snow.  I bundled up more than usual and shoveled a few scoops into a pile and then stood to watch my breath leave me like a cloud of smoke in the midst of falling flakes.  Trying to remember to P.A.C.E. myself!

The best part of being out there was the memories replaying in my mind.  As kids we played outside until we were called in to thaw.  We’d drink some hot cocoa while our gloves and boots dried over every heating vent in the house.  Once our noses had turned from bright red back to their normal color we’d venture out again!

I think sometimes in the midst of our illness and the pain it can bring we need to stop and remember life before.  Not to make us sad or angry at our current state; but to be thankful for what we once had.  Each phase of life has its blessings and its challenges, its comfort and its pain.

I always try to remember there are so many that are so much worse off than me.  Not to sound pious but I’m thankful I have fibro when it is compared to a number of other illness or diseases.  I’m thankful for the strength to shovel some days when there are so many that cannot leave their bed, home, wheelchair, etc.  I’m thankful for the warm house that was waiting for me when so many are out in the cold this winter.

So today as I’m hoping this flare caused by the shoveling is on its way out, I’m trying to remember that it was caused by something I’m able to do that so many others are not.  The challenges in the midst of blessings.

Stay Well! ~ Live Joyfully!

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S.M.A.R.T. people reach their goals!

So it’s the New Year and it’s the time we’re all thinking about resolutions and goals.

The most popular goal we set each January – lose weight. Of course, the health and fitness industry knows this as well. You’ll find aisles at the store packed with workout equipment, protein bars and meal substitute shakes. Gym memberships go on sale or at least they offer some great reward for joining this month.

The momentum for the first few weeks of the year is great! We keep us the strict diet, we purchase our gym membership and we tell everyone to watch as we finally lose the weight this year.

So how come we’re not a nation filled with healthy people living healthy lives at a healthy weight? How come 25% will drop their New Year’s resolution by next Wednesday? 60% will stick with it through June and then fall off the bandwagon. 5% will actually succeed and lose some pounds but 95% of those will gain it back. Why?? What’s the big mystery to keeping a goal or resolution?

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

We don’t plan to succeed. We have the best of intentions but you can’t lose weight just because it was a good idea to do so. You don’t actually reach any goal based on hopes and dreams.

The key is to be S.M.A.R.T.  Each goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.  Using this principle can help us reach any goal, not just goals concerning our health.

Here we go; I’ll use my health goal as an example.  I have joined the masses this year and have decided to take off some weight.  When I was going through the weeks of information classes for the clinical study I’m in (I also talked about this fibromyalgia study here and here) we talked about our different medications.  All three of the meds I take have weight gain listed as a common side effect.  Great, huh??  It kind of left me feeling defeated but I decided just to accept the hand I’ve been dealt and even though it may be a bit harder struggle I’m going to make it happen.

Now let’s see if it’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Specific – I plan to lose 50 pounds
Measurable – I own a scale, and I’m not afraid to use it
Attainable – A pound a week is a pretty realistic goal
Relevant – The loss of extra weight decreases so many risks of diseases, let alone the fact that less weight and better muscle tone will make it easier on my body for my overall pain – so it’s very relevant to my life
Time-bound – I will reach this goal by Dec. 31, 2014

Well, I guess it meets the S.M.A.R.T. test but I also think there is one more step after that. You have to get the tools in place. I signed up for sparkpeople.com as a way to track my dietary intake.

What goals do you want to make for 2014? Whatever they are for – health, finances, career; anything at all – make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T.!
I wish you all a wonderful 2014!

Stay well! ~ Live Joyfully!

POST CHRISTMAS MESS

Here we are.  Monday again.  Not just any Monday, the Monday after Christmas.  Our family had our last Christmas gathering over the weekend.  My sister and her husband will head back south tomorrow morning.

I look through the house I’ve been wanting – no, needing – to get organized and I find it a disheveled mess.  The holidays are so hectic we normally aren’t able to keep up.  Then throw fibro/chronic fatigue in there and you find yourself doing just enough to survive.

My fake pre-lit tree did get put up but remained undecorated.  Yes, we had a bare tree this year – call the North Pole on me.  That has to be a huge tradition violation.

But with a 17 month old in the house it wouldn’t have been decorated for long anyway – at least the lower half.

We concentrated on the birth of the Savior and time together as a family – watched some movies and ate too much.

Next year will be better!  I’m adapting fly lady’s holiday control journal to work for those of us with FM/CFS.  But for now I’m left with this year’s mess.

So we go back to keeping the P.A.C.E.Keep up theP.A.C.E.

I think the most important thing to remember is to get back to healthy eating and staying hydrated.  Try to keep up with the daily chores and when energy and pain levels allow spend a few minutes on the mess.  If you let the daily chores go so you can do the Christmas undecorating your daily routine will suffer and you’ll get all out of sorts.  It will add to the stress and thereby increase your pain.

So turn the Christmas music on if you need it and watch a few more classic movies.  Whatever you need to extend the holidays until you can get the undecorating finished!

Stay Well! ~ Live Joyfully

Let’s go back to the grocery store, but this time we’ll take coupons!

Last Monday I shared my secret tool for making grocery shopping easier: my list according to aisle, etc. You can go grab it if you haven’t yet.
Today I thought I’d share my tools for saving money with groceries.

coupons
When you have FM/CFS don’t have the time or energy to clip a ton of coupons and get them all nice and neat in a huge organizer.

To make it easier, but still save money; simply take the packet of coupons when you receive them and write the date on the top of the front page. Packets come from smartsource and red plum. Scan through the coupons to see when they expire and write the expiration date that is the furthest away on the front of the packet. You can then keep these packets in a pile or use a binder with page protector sheets and slide them in there until needed.

Now the good part! If you haven’t heard of the website www.couponmom.com, you really need to check it out. It’s free!  Here’s how it works; you click on the grocery store that you normally shop at and they’ve already compiled a list of the sale items and the coupons that correspond with the sale. The site tells you the coupon packet where you’ll find your needed coupon. There is a good introduction video on the site that gives you the low down

.
So now you have your list and you have your corresponding coupon book and now you just cut the coupons you need. Periodically go through your binder or pile (whichever you decided to use) and once you get to the expiration date that was written on the front of the coupon packet you simply throw the packet away.

No huge binder to carry to the store. No clipping coupons you’ll never use.

It saves a lot of time and work!

I also use an app called CouponKeeper. It uses your phone to scan the barcode on the coupon and then stores it. If you’re in need of something that isn’t for sale or listed at couponmom you can look it up on this app and it will tell you which coupon packet has a coupon for your needed item. It stores the coupons with the information of the packet the same way couponmom does. It lists if the packet is smartsource or red plum and what date you received the coupon in the mail.

So there you have it! A very simple way to save some money!

Stay Well! ~ Live Joyfully!

Let’s Go Grocery Shopping!

Come on! Let’s go grocery shopping together!
Believe it or not – that phrase no longer blankets me with dreadful anticipation.
I mentioned how my husband came up with the acronym P.A.C.E. (Prioritize Activities to Conserve Energy). I decided it was time to conserve some energy in one of my most required, but hated, chores. Grocery Shopping.

Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TheeErin via Compfight cc

It’s one of those necessary evils; but to someone with FM/CFS it can seem like an insurmountable challenge. By the time you’ve gathered your thoughts, decided what you want or need to buy, made a list, and cut any coupons, you’re way too tired to go to the store. Then once you get there you have to keep scanning your chicken scratch of a list that isn’t in any sort of order. The noise and activity happening around you can send your thoughts spinning; making you forget the two things you didn’t write down because you just knew you’d remember them.
I’ve tried different things throughout the past few years; switching up the routine by planning one day shopping the next. I’ve even purchased the preprinted shopping lists, but they didn’t have all the things I like to keep on hand.
I finally decided to break the whole food gathering process down into parts and see how I could make this reoccurring nightmare a bit easier.
A few weeks ago I made a spread sheet on excel; listing the items we purchase most often under the aisle number I believed they were in at the grocery store. Each time I went to the store I’d revise my list. I moved items around until I had them all under the right aisle. Then I arranged the list in the order I walk through the store. I normally start at the back in the dairy department and end the trip with produce in the front.
I printed a stack of these lists and have them hanging on a clipboard in my pantry. It works great when I’m in the haze of fibro fog; serving as an easy check off guide for things we need. I take the list, scan the pantry and check off anything needed there; then the bathroom supplies, laundry supplies and kitchen supplies. It takes the memory work out of the process on the days when my brain has decided to take a vacation.
I have a small coupon organizer that’s also arranged by aisle number. That way I can just grab the few coupons for that aisle as I walk down. (Next week I’ll share my easy couponing method.)
There are items on this list that assure we can make a few quick meals on days I have no energy or time. Things like spaghetti, grilled cheese, chicken stir fry, soups, etc.; also a number of spaces to add things that might be on sale that week or we need for a special meal.
I’m sharing this spread sheet with you because it’s helped me so much. Grab it and change it up to match your store and the items you like to have on hand! I hope it takes some stress off your shoulders as you handle your shopping!

Here it is!  shopping list
What are your shopping secrets? I’d love to hear them. Sharing our best ideas with each other is what helps our FM/CFS community grow stronger and lead our best lives possible!
Stay Well ~ Live Joyfully

Become a critically-minded, well-educated patient

Where do you get your information about your illness? What resources have you used? Internet? Books? Medical journals? Now, where do they get their information? The sea of resources we have available to us can be quite overwhelming. It’s imperative that you learn how to be a bit critical and well-educated as you search for knowledge.
BOOKS & ARTICLES
Some of us go the old fashioned route of paper and bindings. Do a little research on the author. Are they known for the products they’re trying to sell or are they a noted doctor in the field of fibromyalgia or pain management? Proceed with caution when reading medical books from an author who has a list of products to sell under their name.
INTERNET SEARCHES
Have you heard of google scholar? I might have been living under a rock all these years because I had never heard of it until this week. If you google “google scholar” you are taken to a search engine that is simply research oriented. You can then search for “fibromyalgia studies” or anything you desire. You can even get as specific as you want such as “fibromyalgia studies using ribose”. You’ll see a brief description of the article as well as the date it was written. Watch for recent studies; at least in the past five years.
Watch the suffix of the website. Anything that is .edu is from an educational organization like a school or university and you can normally look at those as reliable sources. The .gov sites are federal, state or local government sites and are highly regulated. Non-profit organizations are .org and are usually reputable. The .com’s are commercial sites and can include people trying to sell products; be skeptical when looking at these. (Keep in mind that these are just generalities. For instance the Mayo Clinic is highly reliable but is a .com)
 RESEARCH STUDIES
The first thing to find out is who was studied. Did they use the current diagnosing criteria when choosing their participants? If they didn’t use up to date standards they aren’t going to be getting beneficial results. You also have to be sure they have a control group that excluded patients with similar illnesses or illnesses that have similar symptoms. For instance, if they are trying to study the benefits of yoga on fibromyalgia patients they may want to exclude people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They would also want to exclude people who are currently under any type of litigation that concerns their illness. Those individuals could be biased in their disclosure of how the treatment affected them.
How many people participated in the study? You’re sure to have a more accurate study by having more participants. Just including ten people isn’t going to be as good as a study that included 4,000.
Where did they go to recruit participants? If it was a pain clinic that provided all the participants; their results may be skewed because they’re studying only those at the worst end of the spectrum; as opposed to those that are out functioning at a higher rate, such as holding down full time jobs etc.
Who were the researchers? Most researchers have a bias regarding what they expect to find. If I think Tai Chi has benefits for fibro patients I’m going into my research study trying to prove that I’m right. Look for well-known researchers in regard to pain and pain management. Those individuals that have dedicated their careers to helping people in pain are more likely to hold their commitment to sincerely help people above their desire to be right.
Who funded the study? Most medication studies are funded by pharmaceutical companies. They’re in it for the money. They are conducting the study for the sheer purpose of getting their drugs on the market.
Was the study double-blind placebo controlled? A double blind study is where neither the person administering the medication or the patient knows if they were given the placebo or the actual medication. Sometimes this is very hard to accomplish. Certain drugs can have such prominent side effects that the patient becomes pretty certain they were given the actual medication.
Has the study been replicated? The only clear way to know if a certain study showed beneficial results is if you are able to replicate it. Medical journals are quick to publish the newest, greatest findings in medicine. The only problem with that is they rarely publish studies where more researchers try to replicate a particular study and are not able to come up with the same findings.
PLACEBO AFFECT
I’m sure you’re aware of placebos being used in research studies. That’s where they may give a certain drug to half of the participants and the other half would basically be given a sugar pill. In order for a drug company to claim that a drug is affective for a certain disease it simply has to work better than the placebo on the tested individuals. In general 35% of individuals will show positive results during a study even though they were simply given the placebo and were never given actual medication. Therefore, the placebo affect is generally 35% or so of those studied. As an example, let’s say after a research study has laid out all their results, 32% of those given the placebo felt better; compared to 41% of those that were actually given the drug. The drug company can now promote the drug to the FDA as beneficial to patients with that illness. That could actually mean that only 9% showed benefits from the drug since 32% felt better by simply thinking they had ingested the medication.
There are actually other placebo studies that don’t use medications. They have done studies on the effects of acupuncture on individuals and had a control group that actually had a placebo treatment. The tubes containing the needles simply suctioned cupped to the participants skin without the needle penetrating. Believe it or not there have also been placebo surgeries. For instance, while studying the benefits of a certain surgery on carpal tunnel they may have volunteers that don’t know if they are actually having the surgery or not. Those in the placebo group simply receive an incision that mimics that of the actual surgery. They get their stitches and are sent home thinking they had surgery.
BEWARE OF LABELS
A study or information source can use the word “significant” very loosely. It can simply mean important or it can mean the effect of a certain treatment was merely above 0. Look for resources that actually disclose a percentage rate. If they don’t, that could mean their results were beneficial in only .05% of those studied and with those findings they label it as a significant benefit.
So I hope this helps you become a more critical, well-educated patient. After all, the most important advocate for your health should be you!

Stay Well! ~ Live Joyfully!

Setting The P.A.C.E. With Housework

I feel like that song;  Just Another Manic Monday – these are the days when you wish your bed was already made!

I just can’t take the chaos anymore!  My house is so messy and disorganized.  We moved into a house half the size of our last one when I quit my job, and we did get rid of quite a bit.  However, when we moved in I wasn’t able to get things unpacked and organized in a good working manner.

Being in a messy, cluttered home can actually make Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue worse.  The time it takes to locate things uses a lot of energy and that’s a very precious commodity.  On days when brain fog is at its worst, the mess just causes an incredible amount of confusion and frustration in the mind.  Honestly, it’s impossible to do anything we enjoy like crafting, sewing, etc., when we have to clear off two layers of junk piled on top of the kitchen table before we can start.

Getting organized and getting systems in place that work can mean a much happier life!

I love flylady.net; her system is excellent.   I’ve tried to adapt a few things of hers like her Holiday Control Journal – you might want to check it out – it’s a great way to help get the holidays in place without a last minute rush.  But I have to tell you I can’t keep up with her. There are a few other websites like iheartorganizing.blogspot.com that I love to follow that have great tips and strategies for cleaning and organizing.  I do recommend them and think they have so much to offer by way of tips and systems that work.  The biggest problem I found with all these sights is what they list to do in a day or over the course of one month; it isn’t something my body is going to allow me to do.  I have to attack this task in a much different manner.

Keep up theP.A.C.E.

My husband came up with this little acronym – P.A.C.E. ~ Prioritize Activities to Conserve Energy.  It’s become my new motto.  I think it can easily be applied to housekeeping too!  When we only have so much energy in our day we have to decide what things are most important.

I’ve had to lower my standards on how I’d like the house to be.  I’m trying to be ok with that, but it can still be hard.  I really like things perfectly organized and pretty!  Even with lowering my standards a bit I still don’t have the house working in a way that’s right for me.

I’ve decided to push our house toward a minimalist lifestyle.  I know a lot out there on minimalism makes it seem almost like a cult – but don’t worry, I didn’t drink any Kool-Aid.  I can just appreciate the fact that having less “stuff” to shift around, organize and clean leaves you more time for actual living in your house.  After you cut through all the clutter and pare down to the items you love, you actually set yourself up for a more fulfilling life.

It’s been a lot to consider and to be honest I had no clue where to start.  I finally ended up picking the smallest area of our home; the linen closet.  I thought if I started small it would give me some quick gratification and get some momentum going to take on larger areas.  I jumped in and was actually able to finish the job in one day.  I took my husband’s advice and worked for about 10 minutes then took about 10 minutes to rest.   I threw out a bunch of stuff we don’t need and don’t use.

At this point of the game I’m not focused on making things pretty; yet.  That will come!  But first I need to get things organized and working for our family.

cleaned linen closet

I think the linen closet was a huge success and everything is organized, containerized and labeled.

Tell me some tricks and tips you have for keeping your house in order!  Next Monday we can talk a bit about our kitchen and menu planning!