Joy in Giving

It’s the holidays, but you knew that didn’t you?  Everywhere you turn you see or hear the word “JOY”.  It’s used in quite a few Christmas hymns and songs.  It graces the front of Christmas cards.  People on the next block over from me even have the word in lights in their front yard.

Photo Credit: worobod via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: worobod via Compfight cc

 

We’ve all heard the saying “the joy of giving”; it’s true.  You do experience joy when you give from your heart.  So that’s good; one more step realized in this joy journey we’re on.  We’ll have to make note of that; all year there is joy is giving.

Yesterday, on my blog “A Life Well Penned”, I wrote about my dad and how difficult it was figuring out what to buy for him.  At least his birthday and Christmas were both in December, so I only had a few frustrating weeks of decision making.  After all these years I’ve finally realized how my gifts for my dad can tell us something about gifts we can present to God.  And yes, God likes gifts too!

Take a second and click on over and let me know if you think I’ve made a decent connection between the two!

 

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!

Fibromyalgia’s Ugly Step-Sisters

In case you haven’t met them yet, or you have and didn’t know they were part of the family; I thought I’d take a moment to introduce you.

1.  Foggy Fran

–          She’s the one that interrupts you’re thoughts.  When you’re in mid-sentence she’s going to slide into the conversation and make you draw a blank.  While focused on a task she’s Foggy Frangoing to jump in and grab your train of thought and run away with it.  We aren’t positive where she comes from.  She may be a result of the pain – you know, it’s hard to focus on a conversation if someone is stabbing you in the thigh with a knife.  Or maybe she comes around after a few of the other girls (depression and fatigue) have been visiting for a while.

2.  Fiona Fatigue

–          Oh Fiona.  I think I dislike her most of all.  Before getting out of bed in the morning she’s there; grabbing your energy supply and running off like a toddler.   She jumps up for a piggy-back ride so as you walk through the day you’re carrying her weight as well.  Each step twice as difficult as when you were healthy.  By lunch time the added weight has you feeling like quite a zombie, dragging along as you walk.  Sometimes she ties anchors to your arms and legs and leaves you immobile.  Then the catch 22 begins; too tired to move = not being able to move = stopping you from exercising your muscles which would give you more energy.  She often leaves you with a sore throat, headache or other illness that comes back time and again.  Horrible child that Fiona is!

3.  Isabelle Insomnia

–          As a child we were scared of the boogie man living under our bed.  Well, Isabelle stays there.  She runs in and hides before you get under the covers with the shear goal of keeping you awake all night.   She’s very aware of your sleep cycle; all 5 stages and the 90 minutes it takes to run through its course to get you to a restful, restorative sleep.  While you’re in stage one your muscles and brain are still active.  In stage two your muscles are supposed to relax and only your brain keeps going.  That’s when she lets all the bed bugs loose to crawl up and down your legs so that you can’t stay still.  Once stage three hits, you should be experiencing gentle waves taking you deeper into sleep.  But she’s there.  Whispering in your ear to keep your mind active and tapping on your arms and legs to keep your muscles alert.  If you even make it to the restorative stage five where you can dream, your body can repair tissue and illness damage, and your body releases serotonin to decrease pain; she won’t let you linger there long.  She gets vicious and starts to punch you in the arm and talk out loud until she has you fully awake.  She’s pure meanness.

4.  IBS Iris

–          She’s the potty talker of the group.  Test after test will prove there is nothing wrong with your intestinal tract.  She, however, she sits with her voodoo doll of you and squeezes your stomach to cause you pain.  She will constipate you one day and make you run like the wind to the bathroom the next.  She keeps you bloated and irritated.  You don’t tend to talk about her much; we like to keep her hidden from everyone we know.

5.  Tonya TMD

–          She has a vice grip, this one.  Tightens the joints of your jaw, neck and facial muscles.  She is so frustrating.  The thought of her makes you grind your teeth.  She doesn’t do much else; but she’s competent at her job!

6.  Paula Painful Bladder

–          Iris’ twin.   Potty talker.  She’s the one that makes you feel like you have to pee even though you just did, and causes pain and irritation in your plumbing.  She usually wakes you during the night, stepping in on Isabelle’s territory.

7.  Dana Depression

–           She’s always there.  Sometimes in the background.  Sometimes making a grand appearance.  She gets in your head to remind you of the life you once lived and all the things you’re missing out on.  Her happiest days are when she can get you to stay in bed and talk about all things gloom and doom.  If you try to tell her of all the things you can still do to have a happy, productive life, she goes nuts screaming at the top of her lungs.  Reminding you of all the would have/could have/should haves of a healthy life gone sour.

There you have it.  There are a few other cousins in the bunch; but these seven tend to stand out above the rest.  The hardest job you’ll ever have is keeping them in control!  Praying you have the strength to contain them!

Stay Well ~ Live Joyfully!

THE MIRACLE OF LIFE – THE DEVASTATION OF DEATH

How do you process the two emotions in the same day, in the same moment?

My niece delivered her precious baby boy yesterday.  His birthday is 11-12-13; how wonderful!

My daughter’s 21 year old friend died 12 hours later in a car accident.  How crushing!

Both have left me clinging to my sweet 1 ½ year old grandson as I rejoice in new life and mourn for a woman who will never again hold her son.  Surreal and numbing when these two collide.

A blow of reality where the circle of life shows its completion simultaneously.

Such a gift of undisclosed time.

WHY I AM NOT CHOOSING TO HAVE JOY IN MY LIFE

I know what you’re thinking. “Really? Isn’t this what this blog is all about; finding joy.”

I certainly thought I was searching for the illusive. To be honest, most of us want some magic pill or glorious epiphany. We desperately search for the new job, house, perfect marriage, group of friends, or life purpose, thinking that once we find it our eyes and hearts will be opened to joy. (Queue the spotlight and orchestra as angels jump on the stage and present “JOY”.) It will never leave us and will stop any negativity from getting back into our lives.

Well I’m certainly disappointed here, but I have found out through my research,  joy is a choice. I know, let’s just throw in the towel now, right? If we’re going to believe it’s a choice, and we don’t feel joyful, we didn’t choose joy.

Could it be that simple?

No. Knowing it’s a choice is not simple at all! It means each day, multiple times each day, we have to decide to rise above our circumstances and draw from this internal spring of joy we possess as believers.

Think about it this way. You’re dying of thirst. You walk into the kitchen and God is standing there with a sparkling glass of refreshment and tells you that drinking from it will quench your thirst. You decide the bottle of Coke in the fridge is the better alternative. So, chug, chug, chug, and the Coke is gone and you feel refreshed. For a while. Soon you’re thirsty again. You’re family and friends are all gathered sharing sweet tea in the backyard and you head out there, passing right by God extending His glass. Surely tea shared with friends and loved ones, is going to be just the ticket to quenching your thirst. You definitely enjoy the time together, and the tea. Now you’re refreshed and this time it’s for good! Nope, again it’s fleeting. Now you’re out shopping. You go to the food court at the mall and there is God, again with His glass. Nice, but you see Orange Julius is right behind Him and that’s looking mighty tasty. Now you’re actually paying for something you think will refresh you more than the free drink God offered. The cycle repeats. Will you ever chose the glass from God?

The choice for joy works that way and God is the only source of true, lasting joy.

So how did I get so lost in life, searching for joy, when it’s been right there all along? It’s wasn’t my choice. Daily, and often multiple times each day, we have to reach out for that deep, centering joy from God. In the midst of family feuds, work stress, financial problems, loneliness, etc.; we have to turn to God time and again. He’s the only one that can provide true joy.

In her book Choose Joy, Kay Warren defines it like this…

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

In Galatians 5:22-23 we read about the fruits of the Spirit; the actual character traits that can be cultivated in our lives as Christians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

As believers, those fruits are in us as a deep resource to rely upon. Did you notice joy is the second one listed? But did you also notice the word fruit? Have you ever planted a fruit tree? In order to get the most appetizing fruit it takes some work. It takes returning to the tree often to keep the weeds and bugs away. It takes watering and fertilizing. It takes care; repeated care. It’s not a “one-time grow the joy-apple and you’re set for life” thing.

So why am I not choosing joy in my life? Because I’ve looked for other things to give it to me instead of looking to the Lord. I’ve tried changing careers, having toys, relying on family; all which gave a temporary sense of joy but not the true lasting joy I desire.

What am I going to do about it? The same thing I hope you’ll do. Before we try to produce it ourselves, purchase something we think will give it to us, or rely on someone else for it, we need to turn to God; take the glass and feel refreshed. Don’t worry that you’ll ever reach out and He won’t have a full glass. He will. He always will. You just need to reach out and take it. Again and Again.

What do you think?  Are you ready to accept God’s refreshing gift of joy?

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The White Powder I Have To Have

$30.  That was the cost for my month’s supply.  Each hit is 5 grams of white powder.

I’ve been on the white powdery happiness before.  It helps.  I don’t know why I stopped.

The past two weeks my brain has been on vacation.  I haven’t been able to finish sentences or even come up with simple words in conversation.

I needed it.

Each hit brings back some clarity to my brain.  It’s like you’ve been looking through a window with dog nose smudges and sticky baby hand prints.  The powder mixes in your system and starts to run through your veins and it’s like you’ve grabbed a rag and Windex and the window becomes clear again.

I was holding back from making the purchase.  Trying to justify the price.

I came home Wednesday and my supply was on the counter.  My husband had busted through my inability to make the purchase on my own.  He needed me to have it.

It had been a long time since my last hit.  I took the scoop and slowly poured the 5 grams into my glass.  Stirring until it was completely dissolved.  I didn’t feel much.

Later that day I repeated my consumption.  A second dose.  A bit of clarity, a bit of energy.

I spread out three scoops per day through the course of Thursday and Friday.  Each hit increasing my mental clarity and energy.

There have been two so far today.  I feel like I’m almost human again.  Less like a wet rag and more like a productive person.

I don’t know why I stopped before.  The money I guess.  It adds up.  But what value can you put on a functioning brain and energy your body can’t produce on its own.  Once I feel half human again I’ll cut back to twice a day.  It doesn’t take me back to before I became ill, but it helps.

My drug of choice – D-ribose.  A white, sweet tasting powder that you can mix in juice or any drink.  It’s actually a form of sugar that your cells use for energy.  It’s amazing for fibro fog and CFS.  It’s marketed for exercise recovery and support.  Isn’t that what CFS feels like.  You’ve just ran a marathon but you didn’t.  ribose

I’m hooked.  I have to add this to my daily regime and keep it there.  Why stop a good thing?  I recommend you ask your doctor if you can give it a try; be sure he approves first.  It’s available at most vitamin stores.  You need to let it build in your system for a week or so.  Give it time. See if it’s right for you!

Stay Well, Live Joyfully!