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Friday, January 29, 2010

Following Oprah's Lead: The Best Pledge My BFF Took

Cell PhoneImage by JonJon2k8 via Flickr

My dear friend Cyndie works the swing shift, 3:00 PM to 12:00 am, Monday through Friday, for a health insurance company located in Warner Center. I know she feels a bit nervous driving home alone at that time of night. To combat her insecurities, she called me from her car and chatted with me on her cellphone all the way home. Over the last twelve months, her calls became an enjoyable routine; I looked forward to our nightly talks.

Well, that all changed two Mondays ago.

On Monday, January 19th, Oprah exposed the hidden dangers of using a cell phone while driving on her show. Several families were interviewed and they told their stories of the deaths of their loves ones caused by drivers distracted by cell phones while operating their vehicles. On her website, Oprah began the NO PHONE ZONE pledge campaign where she asks all her viewers to stop using their cell phone in their cars.

I learned of the campaign via Facebook and immediately signed up. With all my chronic health problems, I actively avoid using my cell phone in the car because it really takes ALL my concentration now just to drive the short distances I can drive. Then I thought of my nightly conversations with my friend Cyndie...

I know my friend Cyndie is a big fan of Oprah and records her show daily. I hoped that she had watched the episode too. I felt I needed to break the news to her that our nightly conversations in her car needed to come to an end. After all, if I wasn't going to use my cell phone in my car, I shouldn't be taking to someone using their cell phone in their car either.

My worries and anxieties were alleviated when I brought the subject up and Cyndie immediately mentioned the program. Turns out, she had signed the pledge too. We were both a little sad that our weeknight routine was coming to an end, but at least we were on the same page.

Now a week and a half later, we are still trying to come up with an alternate time for our daily chats. But I feel better that we both agreed that eliminating the cell phone distraction from our cars was the more important issue to tackle. I miss our late night chats, Cyndie, but I feel a whole lot better knowing that you are safer paying attention to your driving.

______________________________________________


Today's blog post is sponsored by Columbus Health Insurance. Columbus Health Insurance is the website to visit to shop for health insurance if you live in Columbus, Ohio. View plans, check rates and apply online.



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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Best Insight I Had As a Kid

First Communion White BlossomsImage by hyperboreal via Flickr

Did you miss me yesterday? I needed the time to recover from my MRI experience on Tuesday. For some reason, I felt way more exhausted Wednesday, perhaps from the combination of the stress of the procedure, the added pain in my left arm from the contrast material being injected into the wrong place and the mild sedative I took to calm myself down before the procedure. But I got good news today, so in the end everything worked out and I am glad the experience is over.

Now for today's post:

I'm not sure what got me thinking about this lately, but I admit this memory from my childhood brings both a smile to my face and a feeling in my heart akin to amazement mixed with appreciation.

As I kid I attended Catholic school. Using class time to study religion is part of going to a religion-affiliated school. My husband, who is a proud graduate from the public school system, initially was unaware of this fact. After informing him of this fact, he often comments when I don't know something he does that, "It is because you went to Catholic school and were studying religion when you should have been studying _____."

There might be some truth to that comment, but I am getting sidetracked here...

I remember when my class was preparing for First Communion back when we were in 2nd grade. We used a book called a catechism, a collection of all the prayers and other information we needed to learn before we could receive First Communion. After learning my three options for the afterlife, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, I decided at age 7 that I wanted to to go to purgatory. To this day I am not sure why or how I came to this conclusion, but at age 7 I knew that the older I got, the more sins I would commit. I knew I could not be perfect in this life, so purgatory seemed like the reasonable goal for my afterlife.

Perhaps I should stop here an provide the official definition of purgatory (from The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
):

What is purgatory?
Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.


How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?
Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.


One of the things I also noticed in parentheses after each prayer in the catechism was how many years you would get off your stay in purgatory by saying each prayer. So guess what I did during my whole year in the second grade? I said as many prayers as I could so I could get out of purgatory early. I didn't just rattle them off in my head as fast I could. No, I remember distinctly concentrating and really meaning every word of each prayer I said.

Now I am not sure if modern catechisms still have the same format. In fact I am pretty sure they do not. After all, when I attended Catholic school purgatory still existed. According to Pope Benedict the XVI in a communique back in 2007, purgatory and limbo no longer exist.

I guess it's now Heaven or Hell for me, no in between. Which is too bad, because as an adult I learned that life can be very complicated. In this modern world it is not always so clear what is right and wrong, black and white, good or sinful like the catechism and Catholic school taught me. The older I get, the more and more I realize that purgatory really is the most practical goal for the afterlife.

I am grateful to my 7 year old self for establishing this fact early on in my life.



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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Distracting Myself During an MRI with the Best Recent News Story

Sliding into the MRI machine

I need something to take my mind off the MRI I am going to have later this afternoon.

"You are going to have an MRI?" my friend Cyndie repeated when I told her last week. "Those MRIs are expensive! Are you driving up the cost of medicine with your MRI?" she questioned.

She should know about the high cost of medical care ... she works for a large health insurance company with an office in Warner Center.

"I am having the MRI to avoid having surgery, Cyndie," I explained.

"Oh," she replied and then changed the subject.

Trust me, if I could avoid another MRI I would. I hate them. That small tube, the loud noise, the confinement in a huge machine all makes me claustrophobic. Since it is magnet based there is little radiation exposure, but honestly I prefer x-rays and CT scans. I wish I could find a location that has those newer generation model MRI machines with the new and improved larger tube, but an MRI machine is not something that you replace just because they have a new model.

So my strategy for this afternoon is bringing my husband along with me, listen to my MP3 player in the waiting room, taking a Xanax before the test and having said husband hold my foot while I am inside the machine. Oh, and thinking about the things a man in England says in his sleep every night.

I hardly ever watch the news because all the hype, sensationalism and just plain gloom and doom reporting. Honestly, the news just gets my all riled up because my brain gets too overloaded with information. I guess I have the fibromyalgia and dysautonomia to thank that for this. But with the six day long rain storm last week, I turned on the television just to get some storm updates. That's when I heard a funny story about a guy in England with an American wife who talks in his sleep almost every night. His wife decided to post his outbursts on a blog, Sleep Talkin Man, and the blog went viral last week.

Robert was the first to find it and started reading my quotes from the blog that evening. I went for a look my self and found these gems:

"My badger's gonna unleash hell on your ass. Badgertastic!"

"Badger tickling: proceed with caution"

"No, not the cats. Don't trust them. Their eyes. Their eyes. They know too much."

"I can't control the kittens. Too many whiskers! Too many whiskers!"

"Don't leave the duck there. It's totally irresponsible. Put it on the swing, it'll have much more fun.

"Big pig. Massive oink. Little curly tail."

"Monkey power! Straight from the jungle."

"You can't be a pirate if you haven't got a beard. I said so. MY boat, MY rules."

"Legs time! Everybody get your legs!"

"Don't... Don't put the noodles and the dumplings together in the boat. They'll fight! The noodles are bullies. Poor dumplings."

"I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."

"Elephant trunks should be used for elephant things only. Nothing else."

"I don't want to die! I love sex. And furry animals."

"Look out! Marshmallows!"

I plan to have these words floating through my head while I have my MRI today. Once again I am going to try and use distraction to get me through a difficult situation. Let's see if I am successful...




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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Best Advice I Received From My Mother

Small wooden sculpture depicting a Native Amer...Image via Wikipedia

I admit that the title of this post is misleading. I don't want you to think that my mother sat me on her knee as a child and whispered great things in my ear. She didn't. In fact, most of her communications with me took the form of shouts and barked orders from across the room.

Another fun fact about my mother, which is related to the title of this post, is that she spent some time dabbling in the arts and crafts. I enjoy arts and crafts too, but like so many things in my family, the knowledge to do them it wasn't something passed from my mother to me. No, my mother's craft time involved my mother holed up in her sewing room with the door closed.

Now I am not sure when decoupage enjoyed a resurgence during my childhood, but my mother jumped onto that bandwagon. I'd guess that it was sometime in the 1970's or early 1980's. I'm note sure where she found them, but her decoupage experiments consisted of cutting out poems, quotes and flowers from perhaps greeting cards or small posters and affixing them onto plaques which she then hung on the wall.

As fate would have it, there were two quotes that seem to have foreshadowed events upcoming in my life. There were:



"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
~Calvin Coolidge

and


“Life is not a having and a getting,
but a being and a becoming.”
~Matthew Arnold



I actually still have in my possession these two plaques with these quotes on them. If my memory serves me, I think I took them with me when I moved out from my parents house when I started college back in 1983. They tagged along for many moves from apartment to apartment, back home when I was diagnosed with cancer, back out to the apartment life afterward and eventually here to my own home.

Yes, life works in mysterious ways. I may not have had a mother who sat me on her knee to teach me important life lessons, so instead, God made sure these messages came to me as plaques on my wall that I read everyday beginning when I was school aged. The messages were: Be persistent, determined and don't give up. and Life is about being yourself and allowing yourself to be open to personal growth (even if that opportunity for personal growth comes disguised as illness).

As I contemplate this fact, I am amazed that these messages where created by the hands of my mother. It certainly gives me paused as I really comprehend this for the very first time as I write this blog post. It also gives me hope that perhaps God does really exist and that God does find small ways to make a Godly presence known in our daily lives. Realizations like these make me appreciate God more each day.

So, as you can see, these decoupage plaques truly were the best advice I received from my mother. As with many things in my life, the messages were delivered in a very unconventional way. It's a good thing I pay attention and seem to be able to recognize these gifts when they appear in my life!


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Comfort Food: The Best Crockpot I Own


Since I became reacquainted with my crock pot slow cooker, I've been using one of my three slow cookers more than the others. It is the Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 Slow Cooker, which comes with 2, 4 and 6 quart crock inserts. The 2 quart insert works wonderfully for recipes from the cookbook Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. The 4 quart insert is the perfect size for baking using the crock and I've used it twice to make the crockpot fruit cake recipe I found surfing the Internet (which is actually the recipe Dried Fruit and Zucchini Cake from the The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever cookbook). The 6 quart insert worked great for the Chinese Beef and Vegetable Stew I made and for the chicken noodle soup I am making tomorrow.

Honestly, with this versatile slow cooker, I am thinking about donating one of my two oval crockpots to a local thrift store. Although I did use all three for Thanksgiving, one for the turkey, one for the potatoes and one for the green beans.

Here is a super quick and easy chicken casserole recipe I made for Saturday evening dinner. I bet this recipe could be doubled if you used a 5 to 7 quart crock pot instead. Enjoy!


Quick-Fix Layered Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces scalloped potatoes mix
  • 10 3/4 ounces cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning
  • 16 ounces frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower mix, thawed and drained
  • 16 ounces frozen stir fry vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders
  • paprika

Directions

  1. Pour dried potatoes into a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker.
  2. Mix the undiluted soup with the water, sauce packet from the potatoes and the garlic pepper. Drizzle just a little over the potatoes.
  3. Layer the remaining ingredients as follows: all of the broccoli, carrots and cauliflower mix plus 1/3 of the stir fry veggies, 2/3 of the chicken tenders, 2/3 of the soup mixture, then the remaining stir fry veggies and the remaining chicken. Pour the rest of the soup mixture over the top.
  4. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours, or until the chicken and potatoes are tender. Sprinkle paprika over the top and serve immediately.



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Friday, January 22, 2010

Conan O'Brien Makes the Best of a Bad Situation

I'm With COCOImage by stevegarfield via Flickr

I had lunch with a very good friend a few weeks ago and she shared with me a story about her nieces. Both in their tweens, she asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up. They replied, 'Rich.'

"When we were growing up, we said we wanted to be doctors, lawyers and scientists," she went on to explain. "I really think this answer speaks to the sense of entitlement that young people seem to have today."

We went on to discuss where we think this sense of entitlement comes from and much of the conversation was about the media: how commercials encourage all of us, young and old, to be good consumers and how media images set up the expectation that we all should have the same standard of living as the rich people on TV. Working internationally, my friend told me even young people outside the United States share this sense of entitlement as well.

Her comments and the recent hullabaloo over at NBC got me thinking about what kind of example those in the media are setting for young people today. After all, Conan O'Brien appeals to a generation younger than myself--although I do enjoy his style of humor too. For over 17 years, college students stayed up late to watch his show, whether it was Late Night with Conan O'Brien or the recently canceled Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

I think what is happening to Conan is horrible. His situation reminds me of all my unpleasant and unsavory dealing with the managers and directors at some of the non-profit organizations where I worked in the past. Social work is a profession susceptible to professional burnout, but for me, I always used to say that it was the decisions of the administration, not the work with the clients, that caused me the greatest grief.

Overall, I believe that the way NBC management handled this situation was deplorable and sets a bad example of how to handle problems in the workplace. But maybe it also teaches those young fans some important lessons about life and work, like:

  • Life is not fair.
  • Your mentor might stab you in the back.
  • Your dream job may not be a dream.
  • Favoritism in the workplace exists.
  • You can do everything right and still not succeed.
  • Sometimes people do not keep their promises.
  • Bad things happen to good people.
I admire how Conan is handling his predicament.

I like that he stood on principle and did not agree to dishonor the tradition of The Tonight Show by allowing it to move into a different time slot. (After all, a 12:05 am start would have technically made it The Today Show with Conan O'Brien.) I commend his action to contribute some of his own money to increase the severance pay being given to his staff. I appreciate his use of humor in dealing with this situation and his attitude of 'Let's have fun with my final few shows.' Keeping things in perspective and downplaying his own situation, he made it a point to mention the devastation in Haiti on every show this week and requested that viewers make donations to the StillerStrong Haiti Relief effort.

Yes, he's made some cracks about NBC during his show, but I honestly do not see his comedy crossing the line into hostile or bitter territory as he continues to do his job until his show is taken off the air. I think he has done a good job of keeping any anger he might feel from tainting his performance on his show. If anything, in my opinion, I see him getting funnier and better at his job as The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien comes to an end.

I know that Conan will be more than well off when he receives his severance pay. Heck, he might not have to ever work again if he chooses. But I hope Conan decides to bounce back and becomes a success once again. I pray he is able to recover from this setback and find another way to pursue his dreams. In the end, the way Conan handles and recovers from this very public fiasco might actually set a good example for his fans of how to deal with adversity in the workplace and in life.

Good luck Conan!



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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Egoscue: A Best Kept Secret for Pain Relief?

Cover of "Pain Free: A Revolutionary Meth...Cover via Amazon



Every once in awhile I do some Internet research with the goal of finding new approaches to pain management that I haven't tried yet. It feels like I have tried all the mainstream and alternative approaches to pain relief in the past five years. So I was surprised when I recently found an approach to pain relief that I had not tried yet called The Egoscue Method.

So what is the The Egoscue Method? Perhaps the best answer comes from Peter Egoscue himself, from his first book The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion: Revolutionary Program That Lets You Rediscover the Body's Power to Rejuvenate It:
“When we stop using a function it goes into a dormant state much like hibernation. Fortunately for us, the dysfunctional muscle doesn’t slumber forever. It just waits patiently to be awakened and reminded of what it’s really supposed to be doing. And that’s The Egoscue Method’s objective. We give the body a wake-up call in order to reacquaint it with its dormant functions. With a regular series of exercises, we say to the muscles ‘No, not that way – this way.’ In very short order, the body remembers, and function is restored.”

The root problem that The Egoscue Method addresses is poor posture or body mechanics. The premise in this approach is that pain is caused by muscles not working the way they were intended to work.

Looking for more information about The Egoscue Method and fibromyalgia lead me to the article Straightening Out FM from the Autumn 2009 edition of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine published by the National Fibromyalgia Association. The article was written by Tim George, the director and owner of the downtown San Diego Egoscue Clinic. In his article, he tells the story of client Rachel Lerner who was able to use The Egoscue Method to combat her fibromyalgia symptoms. After three months of clinic visits, she says, "My pain started to move around and eventually dissipate."

The conclusion of the article states:
Is posture correction the answer to FM? It is definitely a step in the right direction, but diet, stress response and coping strategies, and controlling environmental influences should all play a part in managing your FM symptoms.
After reading this article, I admit I want to try The Egoscue Method myself. My only hesitation is the cost for clinic visits. From their website, "The Egoscue Method of postural therapy is non-medical. We do not accept insurance." This is problematic for me, however, I am investigating if this service might be covered under the Medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA) offered through my husband's employer, which might help make in-person clinic visits at the Santa Monica location affordable for me.

In the meantime, I plan to purchase one of the four books written by Peter Egoscue (see below). Based on suggestions from reviewers at Amazon.com, I am going to start with his second book, Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain. At the very least, I hope reading this book will help me gain more insight into the benefits of adding posture correction to my arsenal of coping techniques for living with fibromyalgia.

Did I get you thinking about trying The Egoscue Method too? In addition to checking out the Fibromyalgia AWARE article, don't forget to visit the Egoscue website for more information, including details on all the products and services they offer, including online therapy programs and videos: Online Pain Management.

Dear Reader: Have you tried The Egoscue Method for your fibromyalgia symptoms? Please leave a comment and let us know how it worked for you.



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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Best Forwarded Email I've Read Lately

Jespah sunbathing....Image by jespahjoy via Flickr


Forwarded emails may be the bane of modern civilization, but sometimes they provide a good laugh. I could use a good laugh right about now ... the turn in the weather from sunny to rainy has caused a bad flare of my fibromyalgia.

While the subject of this email is What Pets Write in Their Diaries, what it really seems like to me is an analogy of how we humans can choose to view our days. Even if I live with chronic pain each day, I can choose to be a happy pup or a captive kitten. I can choose to do my favorite things each day or I can choose to feel trapped by my pain and fatigue, struggling futility to escape it while putting off my happiness in the process.

I love equally my cats and dogs. I do not think they feel like prisoners in my home. I don't want to feel like a prisoner either, so I choose to focus on what I can do, what I can enjoy and how I can feel some happiness and joy each and every day.

Enjoy this forwarded email. I hope you get a good laugh from it like I did too!

If you want to read more about choosing your attitude each and every day, click here to go to the FISH! Philosophy website to read more about FISH! practices, including Choose Your Attitude.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHAT PETS WRITE IN THEIR DIARIES


Excerpt from a Dog's Diary........

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 PM - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


Excerpt from a Cat's Diary...

Day 983 of my captivity....

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet.. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.


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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best New Thing I Learned About Bras



I watch my local PBS station, KCET, frequently. One of my favorite show is Visiting ... with Huell Howser (and I can hear myself saying this with Huell's faded Tennessee accent.) I learn a lot about California by watching my TV friend Huell, but I never thought I would learn something about bras from him.

I started watching the episode Whistling Champ, which starts at a Monrovia business called the Creative Woman. Turns out, the whistling champ's mom opened a bra fitting shop back in 1975 called The Wizard of Bras. If you follow the Whistling Champ link above to view the episode on Huell's Cal Gold website, you'll see that The Wizard of Bras stocks thousands of bras in every conceivable size.

Now Monrovia is too far a drive for me, but stopping by their website for a visit is no problem. I stopped by the Fitting School link at the top of the page, thinking it would just be a review of what I already know about measuring myself to figure out my bra size. I clicked on the Fitting 101 video on that page and learned something new.


I discovered that while my bras are the right size, I have been wearing my bra all wrong. You really need to watch the video to see exactly how to wear a bra--I learned that I had my straps adjusted too short and the back of my bra up too high. Being well endowed, this means that I have been causing excess pressure on the top of my shoulders, a landscape full of fibromyalgia tender and trigger points.

I grabbed a bra and put it on The Wizard of Bras way and simply was amazed. Wearing a bra correctly definitely makes a difference. After a few minutes, I could feel that the band of my bra was supporting more of my breasts' weight and the straps weren't digging into my shoulders any more. As with everything new that I try with my fibromyalgia-effected body, my body needs some time to adjust to this new, correct way of wearing a bra.

Amazing what you can learn from watching a little bit of Huell Howser on KCET each day.

PS I found these Bra Strap Cushions a few years ago and they really make bra straps more comfortable when they are sitting on shoulders filled with fibromyalgia tender points. Can't wait to see if the combination of correct bra placement and these cushions add up to less pain.

Wow, did I just make wear a bra more fibro-friendly?!?



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Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Friends

I wanna hold your handImage by batega via Flickr

"It's amazing how when your life changes so do your friends. But luckily, the ones that stick with you and support you are the ones that matter the most."
I ran across this message the other day as I perused my Facebook friends' status messages. It really got me thinking about all the things that I have been through in my life and who was there with me. When I think of my past, I often feel like I have lived several different distinct lives within my one lifetime. I guess looking at my life as a book is a good analogy. I started with my grade school, high school and college chapters. Then I experienced a 'girl, interrupted' theme with my cancer chapter. After I finished my cancer treatment, there was my return to college chapter, my 'trying to live a normal life' chapter and now my current chronic illness chapter.

Thinking about all these chapters makes me realize how many people have come into my life. It also makes me realize how much change I have coped with in the past four decades. A big part of what helped me adapt and conquer those changes were the friends that were part of the different chapters in my life.

I feel bad that sometimes I no longer remember the names and faces of the friends who shared these good and bad times with me. I also feel badly that at age 30, I gave up trying to stay in contact with all the friends from my different chapters because the effort to do so became overwhelming and unmanageable for me. Though I now acknowledge that this is the truth, it is still sad to realize that not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime.

That said, I feel fortunate to have a few friends whose friendship has spanned several chapters of my life. Among them are my hubby and my sister-by-choice Cyndie who I have both known for 26 years. Wow, that is a long time!

Connecting with friends is all the more challenging when you live with chronic illness like I do. Getting together with friends in person and on the phone can be very draining. Thank goodness for the Internet and email, which make keeping in touch easier for someone like me. With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, I am enjoy the modern pleasure of reconnecting with friends from my past as well as meeting new friends who are living with chronic illness just like me.

Most of all, I feel truly grateful for the gifts of friendship that I have received over the years. After completing several chapters of my life, I can now say that I think I have this whole friendship thing worked out and I am endeavoring to be the best friend I can be from this point forward. As we used to sing in Girl Scouts, "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold."





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Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Best Thing About a Rainy Day

Big Bear with Snow PICT9577a.jpgImage by Erik.Nielsen.Photos via Flickr

I know that I am spoiled living here in Southern California. I can't imagine living anywhere else. I think I would go crazy without all the sunshine and warm weather. I've grown up thinking that the snow is a place to visit for a long weekend (ala Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead) and that rain is something that happens a few days here and there in the Winter.

So when the meteorologists on the news warned of a solid week of rain, I checked my calendar to see if I had any appointments. When I discovered I had none and could spend the whole rainy week at home, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, I'm staying home all week.

Which got my thinking about a co-worker from my stint working for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee back in 1984. She told me that, when she was a student at UCLA, she never went to class on rainy days, which illustrates how few rainy days we really have here in Los Angeles. It also exemplifies the Southern California attitude towards rain.

That said, I think the rain is a great equalizer. What I mean is that everyone in Los Angeles this week is planning on staying at home when they are able due to the rain. I'm not the only one holed up in the house this week.

Weather like this encourages people to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea or snuggle under a blanket on the couch and watch a DVD movie. Today Robert and I were huddled together with the two dogs and one of our cats watching TV all evening. I bet many of our neighbors were doing the same thing.

So you see, because of the rain, everyone was living the life of someone with fibromyalgia today: staying home, resting and limiting out-of-the-house activities. It's on rainy days that the way I live my life every day isn't so different from everyone else. It's nice to be a bit like everyone else, even if this only happens on a rainy day.



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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Best Ways You Can Help Earthquake Victims in Haiti


I received an email yesterday from BloggersUnite asking me to blog in support of relief efforts in Haiti. As a Californian, I am all too familiar with earthquakes. I have lived through the 6.6 magnitude Sylmar Earthquake in 1971 and the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake in 1994. So writing this post is my way of paying it forward.

BloggersUnite provided the following information:


The citizens of Haiti are currently dealing with devastation and suffering that few of us can even imagine. Tuesday's earthquake has reduced large parts of the the country's capitol, Port Au Prince, to rubble and devastated their already poor infrastructure making the task of delivering aid extremely difficult.
Official estimates from the region say that approximately 3 million people have been affected by this disaster and that somewhere between 45,00 to 50,000 people are may have died as a result of the earthquake.

How You Can Help


Please consider donating to any of the following organizations:


Via SMS text (U.S. only):

  • SMS text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts
  • SMS text “YELE” to 501501 to Donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake Relief efforts
  • SMS text "GIVE10" to 20222 to donate $10 to Direct Relief

Donate to UNICEF and CARE using Google checkout by clicking here.

The Huffington Post has compiled a very comprehensive list of over 30 organizations that are mobilized and deployed to help in Haiti. Click here to view this list which is being updated on a regular basis.

Also accepting cash and in-kind donations are the following sites:


On Facebook and playing Zynga games? Here are ways you can play and help those in Haiti. From Zynga.org:


"Three of our top games are participating in a special relief campaign to help earthquake survivors in Haiti. Zynga is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from non-withering white corn within FarmVille, a Haitian drum on Mafia Wars, the Haiti Wrasse Fish in FishVille, and a special chip package in Zynga Poker to support emergency aid in Haiti through the Zynga Haiti Relief Fund. Users can also support the fund by donating directly through Zynga.org, on this page."


On a cautionary note, please beware of scams and hoaxes and ensure that your donations for Haiti get to the right places. For example, contrary to a current meme, Facebook is NOT donating $1 for statuses posted regarding Haiti Earthquake relief per the Global Disaster Relief on Facebook fan page.





Please do what you can to help those in Haiti.


Support Doctors Without Borders in Haiti



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Friday, January 15, 2010

Comfort Food: The Best Chinese Food

A Steaming Bowl of Chinese FoodImage by voteprime via Flickr

Who knew you could make Chinese food in a crockpot? I certainly did not! So when I found the recipe Chinese Beef and Vegetable Stew in my copy of The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever, I just had to try it. One of the best things about this dish is that it isn't loaded with fat like most Chinese stir fry dishes are. I loved it and highly recommend this recipe--I've even added my ideas for adding some extra vegetables to the pot.

Enjoy!


Chinese Beef and Vegetable Stew

makes 5 to 6 servings


  • 4 cups (packed) shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1 to 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin 1 1/2- inch-long strips
  • 1 4 oz can straw mushrooms, rinsed and drained
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 pound beef top round steak stir fry strips
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste with garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 fresh broccoli crown, florets separated and steamed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1. In a 5 to 7 quart electric slow cooker, mix together the cabbage, bean sprouts, green pepper, straw mushrooms, scallions, water chestnuts, and beef. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons each of the sherry and soy sauce, the water, hoisin sauce, chili paste with garlic, and garlic powder. Pour over the beef and vegetables in the pot. Sprinkle with the garlic pepper.

2. Cover and cook on the LOW heat setting 5 1/2 to 6 hours. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons sherry and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Increase the heat setting to high. Stir in the cornstarch mixture. Place the cover slightly ajar and cook on high 1/2 hour, stirring once or twice, until the sauce clears and thickens slightly. Stir in the broccoli and red pepper and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer.

3. Serve over steamed rice.

Additions/Substitutions: Canned bean sprouts can be used for the fresh. A 4 oz can of button mushrooms pieces and stems can be substituted for the straw mushrooms. A 16 oz bag of frozen young green beans or frozen broccoli thawed can be used in place of the fresh broccoli. Consider adding canned bamboo shoots or 1 to 2 carrots cuts into matchstick pieces.





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Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Sweet Tribute from My Best Friend


I received an unexpected present from my sister Cyndie yesterday. She devoted her whole blog post to me. I admit that I loved it!

Here is an excerpt:

My friend Selena was given the gift and needed an outlet for all her parental tendencies and talents. Human children weren’t in the plan so two years ago she adopted Brunswick, a sweet poodle from “the hood”. A year later, Brunswick, who had apparently inherited his mom’s heart, met Theodore in doggie day camp. He heard Theodore had been thrown out of a car, was homeless and then the two became friends. Brunswick begged Selena to let him come home with them. Theo and Brun became brothers and Theo never went back. In addition to the boys, the Inouye household has three cats, one is a new addition recently acquired from the suburban jungle, aka the backyard.
You can read her entire post entitled The Best Parent by clicking here.

Thank you Cyndie for writing such a wonderful post about me and my furry children. We all love you, Aunt Cyndie!



PS Hey Cyndie--I promise to post the very tasty Chinese Beef and Vegetable Stew recipe on my blog tomorrow!



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OMA&P! featured in the Patients for a Moment Blog Carnival







Thanks to Kairol at Everything Changes for including me in the latest edition of the Patients for a Moment (PFAM) blog carnival. Kairol is a cancer survivor like me and has written a wonderful book titled: Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20's and 30's.


The theme for this edition of PFAM is The Down and Dirty Body. Kairol included my post in 'praise' of the H1N1 virus:
From their nose to yours? School your co-workers in why they need to stay home when they’re sick with this excellent primer Thank You, H1N1 Swine Flu from 21 year leukemia survivor Selena of Oh My Aches and Pains!
Check out all the contributors to this new edition of PFAM by clicking here. As always, there are lots of great posts to explore. Thanks again to Kairol at Everything Changes!

PS When last I traded emails with Duncan Cross, the founder and creator of the Patients for a Moment blog carnival, he asked me to host PFAM right here at Oh My Aches and Pains! on February 10th. I have tentatively set the theme to be
Love & Other Four Letter Words. The submission deadline is February 7.



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Doing My Best to Deal With a Bittersweet Anniversary


I was in a funky mood all yesterday and I finally figured out why. Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of my diagnosis with acute promyelocytic leukemia in 1988 when I was 22 years old. I also realized that this is a tipping point year: I have lived exactly 22 years without cancer and 22 year affected by cancer and late and long-term effects from my cancer and its treatment.

I also recognize that this anniversary means that I have been given the gift of an additional 22 years of life. I had a 33% chance of survival back in 1988, which means I had a 67% chance of not making it. It still boggles my mind to think of my survival in these terms; I still can't believe that I got that lucky.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I have lived a life of both gratitude and grief. Not surprisingly, this anniversary always feels bittersweet to me, especially so now that I really understand my late and long term effects from cancer treatment: infertility, early menopause, dysautonomia and chronic Hepatitis C infection. As much as I strive each day to live a life focused on the good stuff life has to offer me, today I can't help but shed a few tears over the losses I've suffered because I had cancer.

I've noticed lately on Facebook that people are asking their friends to post the following message as their status:


Put ♥ this ♥ on ♥ your ♥ status ♥ if ♥ you ♥ know ♥ someone ♥ who ♥ has ♥ or ♥ had ♥ cancer! ♥ All I wish for in 2010 is a CURE! ♥ I pray for the cure of cancer. ♥ 93% WON'T Copy and Paste this, will YOU 4 just one hour? ♥ please do it !!!!! thx.


When this message came to me, of course I posted it as my status. I do pray for a cure for cancer, but a very specific one. One that doesn't leave the survivor at risk for developing long term and late effects from the treatment. One that does result in the survivor living the rest of their life with chronic illness. One that doesn't take away hopes and dreams to have a child, be 100% healthy and live life to the absolute fullest, without limitations and restrictions.

On second thought, I think my efforts are better served if I pray for a way to prevent cancer altogether. That way no one will ever have to live with all the uncertainty of whether or not they will go into remission, whether or not they will be cured and whether or not treatment long term and late effects will rob them of their good health and longevity. It is only through cancer prevention that late and long term effects like secondary cancers, serious and life-threatening heart problems and transfusion-acquired infections will stop disabling and killing cancer survivors.

On this anniversary, I admit that every time I hear about another person being diagnosed with cancer, my feelings get stirred up and for a nanosecond I am transported back to January 13, 1988. I deal with these feelings by reaching out to the newly diagnosed and offering support and a listening ear. I also feel a moment of incredible guilt every time I hear of someone losing their battle with cancer: survivor guilt. I am trying very hard to let go of this guilt and trust that there is some divine reasoning behind why bad things happen to good people.

I share all these thoughts with you today because I want to show you that this is the way I deal with my bittersweet anniversary. I don't fight to repress my feelings, I feel them. Sure yesterday didn't feel very good, but tomorrow I might feel differently. I acknowledge that anniversaries are powerful experiences, whether it's remembering the loss of a loved one or the birth of a child. It is human nature to reflect on these past experiences on anniversaries, to relive the moments and ponder their meaning.

Learning to go with the flow by feeling my feelings and then letting them go--this is a big part of learning how to live my best life despite chronic illness.



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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some of My Neighbors Are Not the Best Pet Owners

Leash LawImage by Boyce Duprey via Flickr

Since when did obeying the law become optional?

Our society works because the majority of us obey the law. Yet I have noticed a disturbing trend among my neighbors when it comes to their pets. Apparently, they pick and choose which laws to obey and the laws governing pet ownership appear to be optional in my neighborhood. Yes, once again I am talking about the leash law and securing your dog(s) on your property.

This time we encountered an off-leash and unaccompanied German Shepherd on our walk. Although we took evasive maneuvers and immediately changed our path to avoid an encounter with the dog, the dog started following us. So I asked Robert to use the Pet Corrector Pet Behavioral Training Aid we carry with us to help modify our own dogs' behavior. It startled the German Shepherd and the dog fell back but still kept following us. It kept pace with us for about a block and a half before it broke away.

I talked to my friend about the encounter when we got home. She, of course, had a totally different take on the situation. She said the dog just wanted us to read the tag on it's collar so we could help it get back home. Knowing my friend, she would have bounded up to it, hand extended, wanting to pet it, because this is the kind of dog-loving person she is.

As for me, I have a healthy fear of big dogs. My 16 pound toy poodle Brunswick picks up on this and does his best to defend me. I am trying very hard to overcome my fear of big dogs and one of the ways I am doing this is by taking him to training classes at PetsMart. Currently we have a half standard poodle, half sheep dog in our class--Winston is a very big dog. But I can face my fear there because: 1) Winston is on leash, 2) his owner is in control of him, 3) Winston has becoming familiar to us over the past four weeks and 4) the trainer is there to help teach all of us how to correct bad behaviors if the dogs do get into a scuffle.

So really, the issue isn't my fear of big dogs. The real issue is my neighbors who don't seem to able to follow the law. In searching for advice on how to handle an encounter with a stray dog, I found someone who lives in my community who has encountered so many stray dogs on his bicycle commutes to work that he posts YouTube videos of them. He actually carries dog food around with him when he is on his bike. Check out his videos, which he calls The Stray Dog Chronicles:







You see, I am not the only one aware of this problem.

I called Animal Services when I got home to report the stray dog and it's not because I want the dog to go to the Animal Shelter and get put down. It's because I want the people entrusted with enforcing the Animal Care and Welfare laws to know that there is a problem in my neighborhood. This is not the first time I have called and, sadly, it probably won't be the last.

I don't want to be the neighborhood animal police, but I also don't want to have to be fearful every time I go on a walk with my dogs that we will have yet another encounter with an off-leash, unattended dog. We have been lucky so far that nothing has happened, but I worry because I know of at least two dog-on-dog attacks that have occurred in the past year in my neighborhood.

And let's not forget that I am disabled and walking my dogs using mobility scooter.

Luck is a terrible plan. Since, as my friend pointed out, I have no control over what my neighbors do and don't do, I need to give some thought to bigger and better dog deterrents that I can carry with me when I go walking with my dogs. After last night, I'm thinking of buying an air horn to scare off potential doggie trouble.

Agree with me? Disagree with me? Let me know by leaving me a comment!



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