Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Everything I do

I was just sitting here at my favorite hang out of late, Stauf's coffee shop and thinking about resent blog posts. I tend to blog about certain topics more than others at any given time. This can be because of my mood, or because something particularly interesting is going on in the world, or because I'm a flake and can't hold my attention on one thing all the time so have many many varied interests.

This got me thinking about the amount of spiritual or Christian centered posts I've written. There haven't been many recently and I've certainly have had plenty to write about. There is a lot of chatter going on these days about climate change, and climate change action, and energy bills, and there is a lot I can say on those topics, both from an environmentalists point of view but especially as a Christian. In fact, any topic I write about is from the point of view as a Christian.

When I write about my struggles, or my joys, or just daily life, I don't ever really say where my strength is coming from, or why I have the beliefs that I do. And I guess for me, I don't have to.

Everything I do and say is because and informed by the fact that I believe and trust in Jesus.

Perhaps I don't say this enough, but it has become such a part of me that I don't feel that I need to. Yes I'm a Christian, yes I read the Bible for guidance, yes I ask God for help and strength. But with every decision I make and every emotion I express I am not going to say this. But I also acknowledge that it's people's right and joy to do so for themselves.

I'm also not saying that I don't share my faith with others, because I do (like I am doing right here in this blog post). What kind of follower of Jesus would I be if I didn't? But personally I find a time and a place for everything. I would rather show people about my beliefs than to sit down and give them a speech.

So remember when you read this, what informs me first and foremost. But also remember that I am not perfect, that sometimes when my intentions are good, my actions are not always the best. I may slip up and do something very un-Christian like. It happens, maybe everyday. But please forgive me. :)

Fibromyalgia Resources

So I just put this little thing together for my mother in law who has a co-worker struggling with Fibromyalgia. Now that I look at it I feel like I left so much out, but I think it's a good primer for starting to deal with fibro. It is by no way exhaustive, and I am in no way a doctor. This is just my little take on it, in simplest terms possible.


Because there are so many theories out there, it is hard to even begin to address the cause and treatment of fibromyalgia. I think it is important for you to find what works the best for your individual self and disregard other techniques. Below is the basics of what I have found helpful, and nothing extra. But remember everyone is different and the pain and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia effects everyone differently.

Sleep
There are many important aspects to taking care of yourself when diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Different people will have different opinions on what is the most important. Restorative sleep has been the most important for me. I was only getting two or so hours of consecutive sleep at a time which was not helping my body repair and renew itself from the day before. Also sleep dysfunction is seen as perhaps one of the main contributors to fibromyalgia itself.


There are many medications that your doctor can prescribe to help you sleep continuously. Also there are a number of supplements available to help you sleep. Melatonin has been particularly helpful for me, but make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any kind of supplement treatment.

Also maintaining appropriate sleep practices is important.
• Maintain a sleep schedule, going to sleep and waking at the same times every day.
• Limit your napping in the afternoon: this one is hard because fibromyalgia can be extremely exhausting. I find that if I am too tired it is hard for me to sleep at night. If you need to nap limit to no more than an hour in the late afternoon. I try to nap in the early afternoon, but that is not always practical.
• Don’t eat too soon before going to bed, either dinner or snacks. Digestion requires energy and may inhibit sleep.
• Be aware of light, noise, television, temperature etc that may distract you from falling asleep or staying asleep. I sleep better now that the television is out of the bedroom. Use light blocking shades and white noise machines if they help.
• Give yourself time to unwind before bed and create a routine. If watching the news stresses you out, refrain from watching it before bed. Read a book that relaxes you, meditate, listen to music. Whatever works for you.
• Have comfortable bedding: I can’t stress how important this was for me. I already have an incredibly comfortable mattress, but I added a wool mattress pad and I became instantly more comfortable. I also had try different configurations with pillows and different pillows to find what worked best for me.
• Remember, just because something works for someone else it may not work for you. Do not get discouraged and keep trying on getting the restful sleep you need.


Healthy Diet and Exercise
It’s common sense right? To eat healthy and be active. But with fibromyalgia it is SO HARD to do that some times. The way I see it, there is no cure for fibromyalgia and the treatments are wide and vary in the success. Why not make yourself as healthy as possible to begin with. When fibromyalgia is at it’s worse some people discover that they have sensitivities to certain foods. I personally discovered a gluten sensitivity as well as a short term dairy sensitivity. If you feel that something might be making you sick, remove it from your diet and see how it makes you feel.

The best you can do is use common sense. Eat fruit and vegetables as well as proteins. Some days I discover by eating some eggs or chicken, the protein helps my pain immensely. If you don’t feel like eating a lot because you are not feeling great, make what you do eat count. Some days the only thing I can eat is oatmeal or scrambled eggs, but at least I’m benefiting from it.

When I talk about exercise I’m not suggesting you go out and run five miles, or purchase a gym membership. I’m more referring to movement. Don’t get stagnant. If you sit at a desk all day, make sure to get up a few times during the day and walk around the office. Take a walk up the road after dinner to stretch your muscle and help digest your food. I still can do little more than walk at a brisk pace, but I do it as much as I can. Last year I couldn’t even walk the length of my block. But now I can walk several blocks, sometimes even carrying groceries. Take it slow and work up to more activity. It keeps you healthy, it helps with the pain, and it usually puts me in a good mood.

I also really enjoy yoga. Other suggestions might be Tai Chi and water aerobics. Any low impact activity that gets you moving.


Treatments
It’s hard to find a doctor that can treat all aspects of fibromyalgia and that is the most frustrating part. Traditional medicine does have some good medications available: I take Cymbalta, but there are several out there. If you want to go this route and haven’t yet, be sure to talk to your doctor about the best one for you. Also there are muscle relaxants and like I mentioned before sleep aids that can help with your symptoms. I do not have any suggestions as far as pain medication goes. I take ibuprofen, anything else makes me sick. It doesn’t always do the trick, but it is better than nothing.
Non- traditional treatments are varied. There is chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, etc. If one or more of these things interests you and fits into your budget I suggest you at least try them. I’ve found some great relief through chiropractic and massage therapy.

Supplements
There are all kinds of over the counter supplements available for treating fibromyalgia out there. Because fibromyalgia has such varied symptoms and it is different for everybody there isn’t any one thing that works. I can give you a list of some that I have tried and found success with. Talk with your doctor before taking anything, because supplements can interfere with prescription medications and other medical conditions.
• Multi-vitamin: if you are not already taking a multi-vitamin one might be helpful. My doctor suggested a prenatal vitamin because it contains more vitamins and minerals than an average one a day.
• Calcium: It is not only good for the bones, but aids in muscle function.
• Magnesium: this also helps with muscle function and has been great for calming my sore and tight muscles.
• B-complex vitamins: there are 12 essential components that make up the B complex. B vitamins aid in metabolic reactions, heart health, and immune system function. They also help relieve fatigue.
• Glucosamine and Chondroitin: These two are usually found together and help ease joint pain. It is used most commonly by arthritis suffers because it helps reduce cartilage damage, but many people, including me find it helpful for fibromyalgia.


Other Resources
Finally there are so many other resources out there to help you understand and treat fibromyalgia. Everyone has their own theory and their own treatment. If you read them you have to take them with a grain of salt, and realize that not everything is going to work for you. I’ve found that finding a combination of what works best for my lifestyle and body. I am not one for high maintenance treatments, or limiting myself from things that I enjoy.

If you go into a book store there may be a dozen books that address fibromyalgia. The one that I found with the best information in it is Living Well with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia by Mary J. Shomon. While I have found this the best it also has things in it that I disagree with or do not find useful.

There are also several websites that you can visit that have an endless amount of information on them:

• The National Fibromyalgia Association: www.fmaware.org
• Chronic Babe: www.chronicbabe.com
• Healthy Women: www.healthywomen.org

From there you can find other websites and personal sites of people living and working with fibromyalgia.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Struggling

I'm struggling more than usual today. I've come to the point with dealing with my Fibro that I want to be up and around mentally way more than my body can handle physically. I can take outings and activities a few hours at a time, and usually if I do something that requires physical exertion one day, the next day is spent mostly in bed or the recliner. Such is today.

Yesterday was a fantastic day, leisurely, with some good reading and writing accomplished. I've come to realize if I'm going to make a go of writing professional I need to spend a lot more time working on my skills and putting it out there for people to critique and edit. My self esteem isn't quite there yet, but honestly I can't imagine doing anything else but writing and speaking for a career (when I finally am healthy enough.)

I have full intentions on going back to school in the spring so I have a trip planned up north on Thursday to drop off my paper work. I will have to do my financial aid stuff yet. Not that I need anymore debt, but at least it's going towards something.

Ryan and I will only be able to live off love and the kindness of friends and family for so much longer. For as much as I want to work and be productive, I could really use those disability benefits I applied for right about now.

Yesterday I did both mentally and physically stimulating exercise. I walked to Stauf's and spent several hours sipping coffee and working on the sidewalk in front of the shop. It was a beautiful day.

However, today I slept for 12 hours. Which means I did not get up till noon. And now I can barely move because of soreness. Both muscles and joints are screaming, I'll admit it's not the worst pain I've had to deal with over the last two years but it's not fun. The idea of sitting anywhere besides my bed or the recliner is nauseating, if I had to be sitting in a classroom or at an office desk right now I'd probably be on the floor. Often my body feels the effects of a hangover, without actually being induced by alcohol. Emotionally and mentally I am a wreck as well. I want so much to be active and out in the world. Or at least active with the daily tasks of living. So far, this has not been the case.

So here I am stuck in a rut. Perhaps by writing it however it will bring understand to those outside of chronic illness who struggle to understand what their loved ones and co-workers are going through. I am nothing if I am not honest about my feelings.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art of Composting

So many of my friends have asked me either to teach them how to compost or to write a blog post about it. People who are not familiar with composting often think that it is complicated, smelly, and messy. I'm here to tell you, HAVE NO FEAR! Composting is easy.

I personally believe that there is no right or wrong way to compost. There are methods that may expedite or hinder the process. There are also methods that may be more conducive to your residence. But really composting is an art. With practice you can find the best methods for you. What works for one family may not work for another. So take head when reading websites dedicated to the subject. Some insist that their way is the quickest and easiest, while others make it seem like an extremely complicated science.

First, for those not in the know I should explain what compost is. In its most basic form compost is decomposed matter, which is most commonly kitchen scraps and yard waste. As I see it there are two purposes for compost. Finished compost is an excellent addition to your garden or house plants, it adds needed nutrition to help your fruits, vegetables, and flowers grow. Another purpose, which I have benefited the most from, is that it reduces on garbage disposal and odor, causing less waste in the landfill.

There are very few things you need to start compost. Websites will sell you expensive bins, machines, and "compost starter." There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, and if it fits into your budget and lifestyle then by all means purchase them. However, in today's economic climate more people are looking for the do-it-yourself method, which is what I am describing here.

You need a space for composting, this can be a patch of land in your backyard, a out of the way back porch, under your kitchen sink, or any other out of the way place in an apartment. If you have the space outdoors, no container is needed. For people who live in more residential neighborhoods, or in an apartment, simple containers can be made out of common household items. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to describe composting the way that Ryan and I have done it. You can use your imagination to improvise with what you have available to you.

Ryan and I have been familiar with composting our whole lives. Both our families had containers located on the kitchen sink to collect kitchen scraps that were later taken out to the compost pile. At my house, it as in our backyard, and often hosted growing tomatoes, pumpkins, woodland creatures, and even an occasional bear. When we moved to Ohio, we were suddenly posed with the problem of not having any place to put our egg shells, coffee grounds, vegetable peels, etc. We originally started disposing some of these things in the sink and utilized our garbage disposal. When the opportunity presented itself, we began a composting bin outside of our back door. This was in the fall of 2006. I originally blogged about it here.

For our containers we bought two 30 gallon Roughneck garbage cans. Again, improvise with what is available to you. In our experience Rubbermaid containers and those similar to Rubbermaid have been the most convenient. We drilled holes into the container to allow air flow and proper decomposition. To learn more about the process of decomposition you can read this Wikipedia article. I'm not guaranteeing its accuracy, but it is helpful in understand what is needed to compost.

When kitchen and yard scraps are in a container the decomposition is performed by micro-organisms. However, other forms of composting can be facilitated such as with worms, which is known as vermi-composting.

Once you have a dedicated area for your materials, the process is pretty self sustainable. When we started our compost bins we layered kitchen scraps, newspaper, and leaves. Simply put, for effective composting you want a good mix of wet and dry items as well as green and brown items. Different people describe these items different, but if you think of them in these terms, composting will be a less daunting task.

Green would be your vegetables, plants, flowers, weeds, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and tea bags. While animal products are compostable, they are not ideal for most composting locations. If you have a large compost pile in a non-residential area you can add meat, however in residential areas and apartments it is ideal to keep these out. This to prevent critters from invading your space, prevent odors, and facilitate faster decomposing.

Brown items would be things such as newspaper, sawdust, branches and shrub trimmings, cardboard, shredded paper, leaves, etc. Proper composting does not require an equal amount of both green and brown. More green than brown is preferable.

Wet and dry items are self explanatory, but if necessary you can add water to your compost. I believe a good compost is about the consistency of a wrung out sponge.

Layer your items into your bin, alternating your different materials. Once the decomposing process has begun it is not as necessary to layer, you can add your materials as they become available keeping and eye on the balance of green to brown and wet to dry.

Now all you have to do is cover and wait. The micro organisms will do their job, and your compost should get warm in the middle. It will be necessary to turn your compost occasionally, this can be anywhere from a few weeks to months. It will allow the materials on top to mix with the active micro organisms.

When your compost looks like a dark rich soil, it is ready to go onto your plants and in your garden. Serve and enjoy!!

Ryan and I are currently vermi-composting and I will write about this at a later time for those who are interested.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heating Buddies

Besides having an incredibly warm husband, and a cat who likes to keep close, I have a few things that I keep nearby during the chillier months. The cold really effects my joints and muscles. Also in the last two year I have been way more sensitive to temperature changes and my body does not adjust as well as it use to. This means I am often very very cold. So I made some aids to help with this, my rice sock buddies.

What I did was fairly simple, pulling the idea from many store bought items as well as advice from others who have fibromyalgia. Penny asked me to post some instructions, and she's not the first person do so now that the weather is getting chilly, so here they are.

Take a longer sock, tube socks work well. I used a pair of wool socks that didn't fit Ryan or I the way we would like so they are SO SOFT.

Fill the sock with uncooked rice. If you want something firmer put more rice in it, or if you want it to conform to your body and joints use less rice. Leave enough room to tie off the top.

Tie the top of the sock in a knot, or if you feel inclined run some stitching across to sew it shut.

To warm it place in the microwave and heat for one minute. Flip over and heat for another minute. Two minutes in total. WARNING: The rice inside can get very very hot so please monitor the time you heat as well as the areas you are placing your sock. Like any heating pad, you can get burns.

You can also keep a sock in the freezer if you have need for a cold pack.


If you are looking for more of an aromatherapy experience you can add scents to your rice before filling the sock. Place rice in a air tight container and add essential oils or spices and keep covered overnight before filling sock.

Obviously do not wash the sock with the rice inside, but you can empty it out to put through the wash if sock gets stinky.

Stay warm!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Portfolio

I've been working on putting some photos together into a somewhat of a portfolio.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Coffee and Lunch

I had a chiropractic appointment this morning and then came to Stauf's for coffee and lunch. It's raining and the leaves haven't changed yet, so it's not particularly pretty out, but for some reason I am incredibly content.

I had one of the BEST salads for lunch. It was spinach with chicken, red onions, feta, almonds, and blue berries. And the latte I ordered is tasty as always. I am not sure when I fell into this coffee habit. There is something comforting about familiar public places and Stauf's has turned out to be mine. I think sometimes I drink coffee just to be in this space for awhile. The atmosphere is amazing, the people are so pleasant, and there is always something to look at. While I was waiting, Ani DiFranco was even playin on the radio.

So what do I do now. I have no desire to get up and leave from the place, and no real plans for the day. My latte is almost done, should I get another. Should I order something else. Or should I just drink some water and sit. I brought my computer and a book, so really I could sit here all day.

Why don't you tell me about your favorite familiar public place?