Let it Go!

There is nothing more this sick chick loves than a new beginning. As you can imagine, I am pretty psyched for the ultimate new beginning–New Year’s Day. However, before I get into all the fun new, it’s time to close out some of the old. I don’t want to be carrying old, worn-out, no-longer-applies-here <stuff> with me into my new year. As such, I’ve got a fair amount to process before then.

It so happens that another thing I really love is that snow-queen from Frozen. Queen Elsa and I have a lot in common (at least I think so) and she’s pretty good at giving advice- namely to Let it Gooooooooooo!

let-it-go

I know some of you are probably sick of the song.

I am not one of those people.

If you happen to pay attention to the lyrics, Elsa is dishing out some pretty big ideas in shiny Disney packaging and a lot of them apply to my closing out 2014. So, without further ado, Elsa, please take it away:

(for full lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/idinamenzel/letitgo.html I’m going to cherry pick for my own purposes…)

A kingdom of isolation/and it looks like I’m the Queen.

Yeah, this is something I don’t need anymore. Isolation was ok (#NotReallyOk) when I was in crisis mode and lived like a survivalist in my bedroom. So I got to be the Queen of that dreary reality. It did not make it fun. It’s a coincidence that this is one of the first lines of the song, because this is the first thing I’m not going to take with me to 2015. See you later kingdom of isolation. I’ve got 71 awesome blog followers and a whole bunch of truly wonderful friends and family members. Get yourself a new queen.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know/Well now they know!

Hi. If you’re just joining us, I’m Nic and I have multiple chronic illnesses. You can’t see them by looking at me (mostly…unless I’ve polymorphous-light-erupted all over the place) but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. If you’ve been here before, you know this already. Again, if you haven’t, now you do.

There.

Now they know.

Concealing is not my thing anymore.

Also, I don’t care what they’re going to say.

Really.

It’s funny how some distance/makes everything feel small/and the fears that once controlled me/can’t get to me at all.

Yep, check. At the beginning of 2014, I was still trying to figure out if I should blog or not. If you go back and read my very first post (https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/06/16/here-goes-something/) I tell a crummy story about a jerk who made me feel bad about my illness, and I used this story as an example of why I was afraid to start blogging. I thought that the Internet would fling metaphorical poop at me, and having had actual poop chucked in my direction once was quite enough. Fast forward 6 (!!!) months to now, and I can definitively say there has been no poop flinging; instead it’s more like flowers and sunshine and rainbows, all of which I happen to be a major fan of. So yes, the distance I have from it now makes it seem pretty small, and those fears definitely don’t control me any more.

It’s time to see what I can do/ to test the limits and break through!

I started running this year.

I think my head exploded, just a little bit.

2015 is my time to keep on testing all the things I thought to be true of myself as a Chronic, because I learned this year that maybe not everything I believed about it was as accurate as I thought.

Here I stand/and here I’ll stay.

It has been 6 months since my last fainting/blackout/loss of consciousness. Before that, it had been somewhere close to 6 months since the previous one. This is a direction I would like to keep going in-you know, an upright one. I’ll leave fainting in my past, thank you.

Let the storm rage on/the cold never bothered me anyway!

My body’s always going to have some sort of storm raging. I get that. What I’ve only just recently figured out is that the cold doesn’t have to bother me (at least not so much!). I can breathe my way through it with biofeedback techniques, I can remind myself that it is only temporary and clear skies are up ahead. I can call on any one of those lovely friends, family, or followers I talked about earlier to help me through it. I’ll go ahead and leave the “bother” behind!

Now if only I could get down that whole “here I stand in the light of day” part under control, I’d be set. The sun and I are still working out our differences. We’ll get there, I’m sure of it. #PMLE

Let it Gooooooo!

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Soul Sister ❤

 

What are you letting go of this year before we move into the next? Does this song and it’s lyrics apply to you? I’d love to hear about it!

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s, Chronic Readers. I’d like to THANK YOU all oh so much for giving me such a great year. In the past six months, I AM CHRONICALLY WELL has been viewed over 5,000 times in 74 countries. That totally blows my mind and I am truly grateful for everyone’s love and support. I send it all right back to you! *HUGS*

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Give a Little Bit

*Nic note: So sorry that I missed posting yesterday! I was out all day (!!) and when I got home went right to bed. I did wake up in the middle of the night in a slight panic and say, “Shoot! I didn’t write my blog!” out loud into the darkness, so don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you, Chronic Readers.

Giving, giving, giving.

Receiving, receiving, receiving.

Giving, giving, giving, just a little bit more.

Don’t you just love this time of year, Chronic Reader?

Me too!

I am older and wiser now, so the giving part and the receiving part are more equally balanced in terms of being my favorite. It really is so fun to get (or in my case, make!) people gifts that they will enjoy.

While I’m in the giving mood, I also like to take some time to figure out if there’s anyone else, outside my usual circle, to whom I can gift something to this season.

For example, there are numerous coat drives going on, so I will be taking a hard look at our front hall coat closet this afternoon.

Also, canned food drives tend to be abundant at this time of year. It doesn’t take much to pick up a few extra cans of Campbell’s at the grocery store, and even just this small action has the potential to help someone out.

I don’t remember where I heard it, but I’ve always loved this statement:

You must give the thing you think you cannot afford to lose.

Sometimes, we may find ourselves holding too tightly to <whatever>, thinking that we need to hoard it in order to keep ourselves from lack. What I have found is that if you loosen your grip just a smidge, you might find that you not only have some <whatever> to spare, you may also have some <whatever> to share.

This is something that’s been hard for me to learn in general (#GrownUp) but especially as a Chronic. For ease of explanation, let’s use the Spoon Theory, in which a “spoon” stands for a certain amount of energy. (Full Spoon Theory here: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/) I tend to want all those spoons for myself. It’s easy to want that. When I have energy, it’s pretty natural to think that I would spend it on the things I need it for.

Yet…

If I take a little bit of energy (say, a teaspoon, haha, #SpooniePun) and use it to help out my sister when she needs it, if I share that spoon, I may come to find that it is not wasted or better used elsewhere. My sister has been helped, so she feels cared for; I have been helpful, so I feel useful. Win-win! Plus, bonus points, if I help her this time, she will remember it and may be more inclined to help me if I need it next time.

Same goes for using a spoon to help out your specific chronic-illness organization. Can you share articles or postings from their Facebook page to help spread awareness? Can you stuff envelopes or email your contacts to ask for donations? You may not think you have the energy to spare, but you may be surprised by the energizing feeling you get from being a part of something. Plus, you’ve done your part to keep the organization going, which means that good karma will come around to help you out in the future!

There are so many ways that you can give, and not just at the end of the year. For inspiration, check out the incredible book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker.

Walker was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 33, and to combat the deep sadness that followed, at the recommendation of a friend and natural healer, she gave something away every day for a month. This helped her to see that while she felt that something had been “taken away” from her by her illness, she was in no way lacking. She still had the ability to give out to the world. Love, love, love this book!

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday! I would love to hear about what you’ve given this holiday season- what was your favorite present to give? Do you make any annual donations? Let me know here or over on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell

If you are looking for a great organization to give to this season, might I suggest the following? These are all very special organizations to me:

Dysautonomia International, DYNA Inc., The Wounded Warrior Project, ASPCA, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Reach Out and Read

Santa Claus is Coming to Town!

Christmas is coming!

Christmas is coming!

I feel like there should be a Christmas Paul Revere who rides around town the week of the 25th to remind us that it’s just a few days away.

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“Only 48 hours till Christmas!”

 

Because really, between Target and Walmart and their intensive post-Halloween marketing campaigns, I feel like I really have no idea when Christmas actually is.

Like, hasn’t it been Christmas for nearly 2 months now? Can someone just tell me which day is the one where I get to wake up, make snowflake shaped chocolate chip pancakes, and give people presents?

Sometimes days melt into one another for me anyway. My brain is sleepy, and this dark, rainy weather (ew, Mid-Atlantic, just, ew.) isn’t helping; I don’t know a Christmas Eve from a Christmas Day. I’m a pinch afraid I will go to sleep tonight and wake up on the 26th, having completely missed the whole thing.

I happen to really like Christmas. I like trees and presents, an elf on every shelf, and playing the same holiday albums on repeat (Kelly Clarkson, Michael Buble, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra-lather, rinse, repeat). I like cookies and parties, though sadly I didn’t get my act together enough to throw one this year. (New Year’s! I will have a New Year’s party! Probably sometime in February…)

It kind of bums me out that so many articles and blog posts that I’ve been seeing online are titled “Surviving Christmas” or “Holiday Survival Guide.”

While they are often full of solid advice (eat before you go to your gluten-loving grandma’s house; take naps), does it make anyone else just a bit sad that the holiday season is something we must mentally arm ourselves for? Like, as kiddos, we weren’t on the playground lamenting, “Oh Sally, Christmas is coming. That means Great-auntie Nora is going to pinch my cheeks and comment on how I’m too old to wear leggings as pants now that I’m six…”

No, we were too busy being excited. Sure, for presents perhaps, but just the anticipation of a whole day dedicated to fun.

Of course I count myself as slightly adult-ish now, and I can see that a lot of what made Christmas “Christmas-y” as a kid requires a lot of attention and effort on the part of parents/adults. Those elf-on-the-shelf’s don’t run their own marshmallow bathtubs, you know (or do they…?)

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But, really, survival guides?

Shouldn’t those be reserved for national emergencies and time spent on deserted islands?

That’s what I think.

But then again, I don’t know your family, so…

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#Griswold #ChristmasVacation

 

I don’t have particularly elaborate holiday plans, but I will do my best to enjoy the day in the most celebratory way I can muster. As such, I will be pushing my second post this week to Friday, instead of its usual Thursday.

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday. Celebrate it, sleep through it, survive it-whatever your plans, I hope that you have a lovely few days and that Santa is good to you! (You are on the Nice list, yes? Of course you are!)

6

Please don’t sneeze on the POTSie!

Happy <ACHOO!> Holidays!

Merry <COUGH-COUGH> Christmas!

Y’all need to back up.

Yep.

Take a step away from the girl with the chronic illness.

I’m not trying to be mean.

I’ll even say please.

Please maintain a 100-yard distance from me with your Achoo! Achoo! and your Cough! Cough!

We can wave to each other from opposite sides of the room.

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Yuck.

People get sick, like, acute sick, all the time.

I understand. Absolutely! I just don’t want to be anywhere near it.

I have to give some credit to my immune system this year. It has been working really hard for me. The joke used to be that if someone sneezed on the other side of the world, I would be sick tomorrow. This year, my immune system is fighting the good fight, and so far (*fingers crossed*) I haven’t been hit with any acute sick bugs. It’s pretty much a miracle, because my sister works the front desk and after-care program at an elementary school, which is just code for a petri-dish of adorable tiny people who learn sharing is caring and apply it to everything- like sharing all their adorable tiny germs. I think my sister is their favorite person with whom to share. She is very friendly after all…

For those of you just joining us, there is a huge difference between chronic sick and acute sick.

Chronic sick doesn’t go away. It may recede sometimes, but it can always be triggered and jump out of hiding to ruin your day when you least expect it. With chronic sick, you aren’t tired, you are fatigued; you aren’t sore, you are in pain. The difference is the lack of relief. Nothing yet discovered seems to ease the fatigue and pain associated with chronic sick.

Acute sick is the common stuff. Colds, flus, strep throats, runny noses, infections, and viruses. These guys have a shelf life of a week, maybe two, but then they’re done and move on to the next unwitting sufferer. Sleep makes the tired go away (even if you have to sleep for 24 hours straight, it still ends sometime), and even more sleep plus some ibuprofen makes the soreness go away. You resume normal everything when it goes away.

‘Tis the season for get-togethers and crowds and frosty weather, and that means ‘tis also the season for acute sick.

The thing is, people who are chronically ill are also very susceptible to regular ole’ acute sick, and often, we have a much less sophisticated defense system against invaders than our well counterparts.

This is a Chronic immune system:

one drunken knight (night)

#Slacker

 

This is a happy, healthy immune system:

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#WatchOutEnemies

 

This means we’ll be worse off, probably for longer, than if we had regularly functioning systems.

So again:

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I’m going to need to redirect you out of my airspace.

Nothing personal.

Promise.

The best way to avoid acute sick?

Pictures Cute Funny Animal Gallery (24)

Hide out in an empty wrapping paper roll?

Not so much.

As much as it can be super fun to hide out under the covers until Spring (been there, done that, not *actually* that fun…) sometimes you do have to go out. Especially when it’s the holiday season.

So…

Get enough sleep.

Wash your hands.

Eat your vegetables.

Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and/or sneezing, and remind others to do the same.

If you need to, you can always publically shame your germ-sharing friends and relatives by posting this adorable Public Service Announcement from Elmo and Sesame Street about the “right way to sneeze” to their Facebook walls. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW1yodZJpG8

 

I hope very much that you are all feeling well today, Chronic Readers!

Happy Hanukkah to those readers celebrating!

Celebrating the Craftiness of Others

I like to make stuff.

We have established this.

(See: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/08/04/the-crafty-chronic-1/ and https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/08/27/the-crafty-chronic-2/ Also, my Etsy store: www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts)

I also happen to very much enjoy buying stuff that other people make.

Enter The Christmas Fair!

Also known as a Christmas Mart, a Holiday Bazaar, or my personal favorite, a Winterfest-Craftfest.

I don’t know if they have these anywhere else, but I hope that they do, as they are so much fun. Essentially, it is an event, large or small, where a bunch of crafty people sell their stuff under the warm and wonderful umbrella of a holiday theme.

I started going to craft fairs about 5? maybe 6? years ago. A local church/school had one as a fundraiser. They filled the school hallways with card tables where people set up their wares, had hot chocolate and hot dogs for sale in the cafeteria, and played Christmas music radio over the loudspeaker.

In short, it was lovely.

Sigh.

We’ve gone every year since, and my excellent investigative skills have led us to countless new fairs. This year we didn’t even make it to all of them- and we went to at least one, usually two or three, every weekend in November and the first weekend in December. That’s a lot of fairs!

My favorite one is at a county fairground an hour away. They have multiple heated buildings set up, filled to the gills with crafty people. My least favorite one was at a different county fairground an hour in the other direction, where the whole thing was outside. Wind + 35*F = unhappy shopping experience.

The best thing about it is that people are so inventive! I think that living in a culture where nearly everything we come in contact with is mass-produced elsewhere causes us to sometimes forget that people have individual creativity and can actually make things themselves.

Not every item is fancy. There will be row after row of beaded bracelets and painted rocks (yes, apparently it is a Thing). And then there will be people who go above and beyond so far that you wonder why their art is being sold in a high school gym and not to a museum (I am looking at you, Lady who Hand-paints Ostrich Eggs to look like Baby Penguins. You too, Guy Carving Totem Poles with a Chainsaw in the Parking Lot).

I have ended up with some pretty amazing things from my craft fair travels.

For instance:

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These are gourds. As in, this was once a squash. Then it was dried out, treated with something, and painted.

To look like a cat.

Or Santa.

My sister has a penguin.

The Santa one is hollowed out and there are stars cut out on the sides. A night light attached to the inside-back makes the whole thing glow. It makes me so happy to look at; it’s incredible the amount of thought that went into it. I mean really, have you ever looked at a squash and said, “I bet that would make a beautiful Santa night-light!”

Me either.

Until now.

I happen to love Elf on the Shelf. A friend of mine has kids and so has been posting the most creative ideas on Facebook (LOVE IT). But have you ever heard of Elf on a Shell?

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This is a seashell. A lady went to the beach, picked up a bunch of free-from-the-environment-materials, washed and painted them. Now they are ornaments with adorable faces.

Speaking of ornaments, this gingerbread man is made of corkboard.

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Buy a roll of the thin kind at Staples or a craft-store, use a cookie cutter to slice them out, and decorate with bits of leftover fabric, ribbon, and buttons. So easy, so cute!

Know what’s pretty? Ivory. Especially non-elephant-harming PLANT ivory.

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This stuff is Tagua, the seed of an ivory-nut palm. It’s the most amazing thing, and it comes from South America. The woman I bought these from told me that when she goes home to visit relatives, they harvest a bunch of these seeds and then sit around and carve them into intricate animals or other designs. Talk about a fun way to spend family time! Tagua really lasts too. Even though it is organic material, drying it out allows it to keep. This is not something I ever would have known without a craft fair- cool, right?

The one booth I most look forward to finding is that of a lovely older woman who makes glass pendants. Seriously, I could be her groupie. A lot of the crafters go to multiple fairs, and eventually you start to recognize people. You especially recognize them if you have a bunch of their work at home. This is my collection:

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Friendly crafter-lady has tried to explain to me before how she gets the glass colors and patterns just right, but it goes right over my head. It’s probably because I’m distracted by the kaleidoscope of pendants- which are all less than $10, further enabling my obsession with them.

One of these days, I will get myself a booth and switch to the other side of the table; I plan to have enough stuffed animals at the ready next year to do so. Until then, I am enjoying my time as a consumer. I am consumed with wonder and amazement at the craftiness of others!

 

Have you ever been to a holiday bazaar, Chronic readers? Do you do any crafts yourself? I would love to hear about it!

When to Say “When!”

Oh it’s been a week, Chronic friends.

Busy is good, right?

Busy is the goal, yes?

I’ve got this problem. I hate to even say it out loud, but I have to.

I’ve been having trouble with feeling well.

That’s a weird thing to say, I know, I promise it’s not a typo. Allow me to explain:

I have felt not well for a reallllllly long time.

Try 12 years, give or take a few months at a time.

I am used to waking up closer to the afternoon than the morning, dragging myself out of bed, changing into clothes that most people would still consider pajamas but that I did not only because I hadn’t just slept in them; going downstairs, plopping on the couch, and promptly falling asleep again.

I am used to being so tired and in pain and dizzy, dizzy, dizzy that showering was Victory! and going outside was cause for Joy!

I am used to not

Not being able…to empty the dishwasher, let alone fill it.

Not having the energy…to play with the dog even though she brought her ball right to my feet.

Not knowing if I could handle…well, anything.

So this whole functioning thing is new to me.

2014 has been so wonderful in terms of my personal health progress. I’ve got great doctors who have me on the right track; I’ve learned to breathe correctly and more frequently; and I feel like I’ve made some important emotional growth. Also, happily, I’ve figured out (through MUCH trial and error) how not to induce a heart attack while exercising.

With all this newfound ability, I’m finding it hard to say WHEN.

As in, “Ok, I’m done for right now,” or, “I need a break.”

It’s a confusing place to be in, finding that you have some energy, some stamina, some motivation, yet not knowing how much or if/when it will run out.

Here are some examples:

I haven’t been able to handle the overstimulation of going to the mall in what feels like forever. There’s so much to see! I feel like maybe I have energy; I feel excited to be here; we’ve been here for an hour…what’s another? And then another…

Previously, exercising was hard. No, that’s an understatement. Exercising felt like torture. I couldn’t breathe, and my chest would pound so hard I couldn’t hear anything except my heart beating. Now, I am doing a Couch to 5k program. I am running. I’ve been doing this for a little while now, I feel comfortable. It’s time to take it up a notch. I’ll go for a little longer. And if I’m going to do that, why not go a little faster too?

I haven’t had a blackout in 6 months (WOOHOO!). This means I can safely empty the dishwasher. (Blackouts + Breakable Stuff = “Hey, sweetheart, let me put Grandma’s China back in the cupboard, mmmkay?”) And while I’m here, why don’t I just fill it, too? And wipe the counter. And put the groceries away. And then get back to what I was in the kitchen for in the first place: making dinner, which I also wasn’t able to do by myself for a long time. And because I’m making my dinner, I’ll feed the dog, then take her out, then reheat my dinner because the dog never wants to come inside anymore…

Plus I’ll write my blog, stuff some Christmas card envelopes, try really hard to pay attention to the Medical Transcribing class I’m taking, and I probably have a doctor’s appointment squeezed in there somewhere.

So all of that was Tuesday…

I have done some version of all that stuff every day for the past few weeks.

I don’t want to say When.

I’m scared of When.

If I say When, do I get to get back up again later, tomorrow, the next day?

What happens if this “When” is my last one, and there’s nothing to say When to tomorrow?

It’s making me a pinch nutty.

Plus it leads to days like yesterday, Wednesday.

I woke up. I went downstairs, had breakfast at normal-people breakfast time, and was on my way upstairs to get ready to do marathon-errand-running with my Mom before I had a dentist appointment (my second of the week- darn cavities!).

Except instead of feeling bright and sunshine-y and ready to take on the world all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

So I did.

I got up around lunchtime, did the dishes, put the laundry in the dryer, got dressed, paid attention to the dog and her needs, etc. I felt like a Zombie, but a Zombie who could probably handle getting her cavities filled, despite still being sore and jaw-achy from having the previous set done on Monday. I was all set to go.

Then the dog wanted to go out.

Suki, my sweet, sweet love, is still wearing her cone from having had eye surgery a month ago. She’s healing, and that means no toys, no running around, no to pretty much all of her favorite things. She’s cranky. And the way she has decided to express that cranky is to sit in the middle of the driveway and not move.

Deadweight, with a “you can’t make me”, sort of attitude.

By the way did I mention that it’s like 20*F outside and the wind is blowing so hard it knocked over the trashcans?

At least it wasn’t raining this time (#Monday).

I humored her for 25 minutes. Then I started to get cranky, because she still had to do her business and I needed to leave for the dentist. Plus, I couldn’t feel my nose any more.

Eventually, after much cajoling and finally just scraping her furry little bum off the pavement, she did her thing and we went inside.

Where it was decidedly not 20*F.

There are a lot of sucky things about POTS and the other chronic illnesses that hang out with me. For instance, I am not a fan of tachycardia, vomiting, or overall soreness.

But what really, truly sucks is my body’s inability to regulate it’s own temperature.

This is what happens when I walk inside where it is a humidifier-ed 74*F from being outside in cold, dry, windy, 20*F air for the past half hour:

~My chest tightens instantly, causing me to feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.

~My head starts to pound and I see colors and spots instead of normal vision because the temperature change affects the way my veins constrict (cold=tight, warm=loosey goosey) so my blood flow is all off.

~My skin flushes and gets itchy because my mast cells think warmth is an enemy invader.

~My internal thermostat, trying to be helpful, warms me up too quickly, and so I break out in a cold sweat which completely soaks me, from my hairline to my socks.

~All conscious, rational thought is completely scrambled by this incredibly sudden and all encompassing turn of events, and so all conscious, rational reaction is completely scrambled as well.

I didn’t make it to the dentist. I was crying too much.

#Yuckkkkkk

Somewhere in my tear-streaked meltdown, I realized that stuff like my body’s inability to deal with temperature change is probably never going to go away.

This sucks.

However, the fact that I completely fell apart and had to cry about it for <WayTooLong> doesn’t have to stay with me. I had emptied my wells of “rational-thought surplus,” spending my energy on walking around stores for an extra hour AND writing my blog AND studying for hours AND stuffing Christmas cards AND making stuffed animals all in the same day.

I didn’t keep any Spoons on reserve for actual chronic illness hiccups like coming into a warm house from the cold outside.

(Spoon Theory: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/)

I’ll say it again: I’m having trouble with feeling well.

I’m not ungrateful, by any means; in fact I practically kiss the ground I run on each and every day because I’m so happy to have any sort of progress.

But I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

I’m sure that just like chronic illness didn’t happen over night, chronic wellness won’t happen that way either.

I’m learning.

I’m working hard (but not too hard!) at it.

I’m writing this blog, and then I’m taking the rest of the day off! It’s time to recharge my Spoon supply.

 

I would love, love, love to hear from you, Chronic friends, about how you find a new normal during times of improvement. Are you scared of taking breaks, too? How do you deal with that “I’ve got an hour of energy, I’m going to do everything I’ve been neglecting for the past week all in this one moment!” feeling? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Holiday Cards and Holiday Movies: a Match Made in Christmas Heaven

Oh the Holidays!

There’s so much work to do- shopping, baking, selling handmade stuffed animals on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts) #ShamlessPlug #CouponCodeBelow…

And cards!

Don’t forget the cards!

I love to send out holiday cards; the week after Christmas, I am first in line at Hallmark, buying up their 75%-off boxes of cards to prepare for next year. I really love getting mail myself, so I hope that others love it too (really, who doesn’t?).

In fact, I love cards so much, that for the last few years, I have hired myself out to my mother’s place of employment to be their official holiday card stuffer.

It’s made me not like cards just a teeny, tiny bit.

There are 1,050 cards to stuff n’stick (as in stuff the envelope; then stick the stamp, the address label, the return address label, and the self sealing sticker-thingy) this year. That’s a lot, in case you didn’t realize.

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#TakingOver #TheresSoManyMoreThanThis

The whole process is so boring.

Like, really, really, boring. They are pre-printed with a lovely and heart-felt message; there’s no “Hi friend, how have you been?” for me to fill in, no fun catching up to do.

Which I guess is good, because if I had to write 1,050 personal messages my arm might fall off.

I have a system down that I’ve honed through the years, and it doesn’t take quite as long as it used to. My brain kind of turns to mush and goes on auto-pilot and I turn into a card-stuff-n’-stick machine.

Know what makes doing this job 10x more fun?

Binge watching Christmas movies while doing so!

No matter what, I always watch Bridget Jones’s Diary first. It’s not a “traditional” holiday movie, but for whatever reason, watching dear Bridget totally embarrass herself in front of Mark Darcy (Colin Firth! Who should just do everyone a favor and change his name to Mr. Darcy already!) at her mother’s annual Turkey-Curry buffet marks the true start to my personal holiday season. Also, it has the greatest soundtrack ever.

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No surprise, I quickly follow that up with the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which is decidedly less Christmas-y, yet still fun. Chances are, I will then Google updates on the never-going-to-actually-happen-third installment while on my lunch break.

Whatever happened to Winona Ryder? I was her biggest fan in the late-90s/early 2000s. I tried desperately to talk my mom into getting me a Free-Winona t-shirt post-shoplifting scandal, but for some reason, she thought it was inappropriate to wear on casual-dress day at my Catholic elementary school. Sigh. I still want one.

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#ChildhoodFavorite

 

My favorite Winona Ryder movie has to be Little Women. This 1994 classic also stars Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale (so pretty!), Kirsten Dunst (so little!), and Claire Danes, with special appearance by my forever-crush Gabriel Bryne. (Don’t laugh. I have a list of what I call my “old man crushes”- and he fights neck and neck for top billing with Alan Rickman.) I’m pretty sure I can relate my wanting to be a writer back to this movie- I wanted to be Jo March. Really, I wanted to be Winona Ryder being Jo March, but still. This movie has everything: independent womanhood, sisterhood, writers in boarding houses, Civil War heroism, sickness and horribly sad death, Quakers and Transcendentalism. Also, the greatest movie-way of telling a girl you like her, ever:

Your heart understood mine. In the depth of the fragrant night, I listened with ravished soul to your beloved voice. Your heart understood mine.

Which they borrowed from the Opera, “Les pêcheurs de perles.” As a side note, it’s always a great date if you take a girl to the opera and you get to sit in the stage wings. No one will care that your hands are empty when your heart is so full of awesomeness, Professor Friedrich.

Ok, on to the actual traditional, recognizable Christmas movies.

The Clay-mation masterpieces of the 1960s!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town are only the greatest creations ever. If you have not seen them, please, do yourself a favor and Netflix these guys NOW.

I’ll wait…

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

“Let’s be independent together!”

 

So much tongue-in-cheek dialogue! So much Andy Rooney as Santa! Why can’t Sam the Snowman (Burl Ives) and/or Fred Astaire as a postman narrate every Christmas movie?

My mom loves Nicholas Cage. I think he is underrated as an actor (love me some National Treasure movies!) and should really re-think his PR strategy. Case in point: The Family Man, a truly great holiday movie that’s a sort of backwards It’s a Wonderful Life (which we’ll get to-hang in there!). Instead of being removed from his life a la Jimmy Stewart, Nicholas Cage is put-into a life- the life he would have had if he had chosen love instead of money and power. Tea Leoni (another underrated actor alert!) plays his new-life wife, and Jeremy Piven is his best friend. Don Cheadle is his guardian angel. It’s fantastic. Trust me.

It’s a Wonderful Life is considered the quintessential Christmas movie. I’m going to go ahead and break some hearts here when I tell you it’s really not my favorite.

(*Pause for audible gasps from the audience*).

Sorry.

I’ve seen it a zillion times, and there’s just something about it that makes me go “Eh…” instead of “Awww!!” like the rest of the masses (if I am to believe basic cable and the Big 3 Networks who play it on repeat…). I just don’t understand why it takes George Bailey 130 minutes to figure out the meaning of life when it takes Rudolph a mere 47. Learn to keep it simple, George.

Know what my favorite holiday movie is though? A Christmas Story. I don’t know if I can put into words my love for this movie. It’s insanely quotable (“I double dog dare you!” “Frag-il-leee. Must be Italian”), really funny in an understated way, and makes me think of my cousins and Thanksgiving so, you know, warm fuzzies all around.

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Don’t try this at home, folks.

 

Finally (because there are so many holiday movies I could keep this post going for forever, but I won’t because I’m sure you’ve got other stuff to do today…), you can’t make a Christmas movie list (and check it twice!) without Elf. Buddy the Elf loves coloring, marshmallows and hugs, and so do I. He’s a good note to end on!

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Honorable mentions:

~The Santa Clause (with Tim Allen!)

~The Santa Clause sequels (which aren’t great, but they tried really hard and had all the original cast members so that counts for something, right?)

~Miracle on 34th Street (the baby-Natalie Wood version from 1947)

~The Holiday (Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and…Jack Black? It works though, really)

~White Christmas (musical!)

~I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Jonathan Taylor Thomas- I’m sorry, but I am a true 90s kid).

 

Last bit of shameless plug-ary: Use coupon code XMAS10 to get 10% off in my etsy shop now through Thursday 12/11: https://www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts

Snack Time with the POTSie Girl

I don’t really like sugar.

There, I said it. Think what you will of me.

Now salt on the other hand…

It’s lucky that I have POTS (or maybe it’s because I have POTS!), because I love me some salty goodness. Salty-sweet is pretty high up there, but sweet on its own? Not so much.

I’ve written a post before about eating a high-salt diet in order to increase sodium levels, which in turn raises blood pressure, a good thing for low blood pressured POTSies like myself. Pretty much I eat a “healthy” (for POTSies) version of what I like to call The Heart Attack Diet. This means I eat all the stuff a cardiologist tells most people NOT to: high sodium yumminess. See that post here: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/06/25/the-heart-attack-diet/

When I wrote it, I was mainly talking about what I eat for my government-issued Three Square Meals-a-day. With the exception of going on a tangent about my love of deep fried potatoes, I didn’t really talk about the most fun food to eat:

Snacks!

I know, I know, snacking isn’t really “good” for us. But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about how delicious salty snacks can be.

It is the holiday season.

There are parties to be had and Snacks to be served at said parties.

First up: The Pretzel

A long, long time ago, when I was just a baby Chronic, a well-meaning, yet grossly uninformed cardiologist told my mother to go to Costco and buy the value size barrel (yep, the barrel) of pretzels and feed them to me religiously. Pretzels would cure me of my ills.

Well, ok, the saltiness would, but you get the point. Pretzels are wonderfully portable; a quality you want in a magic cure-all food.

Spoiler Alert: Pretzels don’t cure POTS, let alone anything else (perhaps The Munchies? I wouldn’t know).

Plus the barrel at Costco happens to be gluten-filled, which meant I didn’t get to eat them for a few years until those brilliant minds over at pretzel-megafactory Snyder’s invented the Gluten-free pretzel! (I think Glutino actually made theirs first, but as theirs doesn’t really taste so much like a pretzel as a mouth full of cardboard, I don’t count them.)

Fun things to do with pretzels: Dip them in stuff!

My mom thinks I’m a weirdo because I like to dip my mini-pretzels in (no-sugar-added) applesauce. I think she’s a weirdo because she won’t even consider tasting the salty-sweet wonderful concoction. Try it. Angels might not sing, but the next time you eat a pretzel, you may think to yourself, “Hey, something is missing here.”

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Chocolate is wonderful. Let me just put that out there. Pretzels dipped in chocolate are really wonderful. Pretzels dipped in chocolate and rolled in sprinkles are really, really wonderful. Salty-sweet, my friends, it’s a gift from the universe.

While I’m on the topic of chocolate, I have to tell you about my favorite kind- Sea Salt Chocolate. I don’t know who their PR person is, but Sea Salt Chocolate and its cousin, Salted Caramel, are on a roll. They are everywhere. This makes me very happy because if chocolate is good, salty chocolate is better. I’m going to go so far as to say it is an essential health food item for POTSies.

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“It’s for medicinal purposes…” she mumbled from behind the crumpled pile of empty wrappers.

I recently discovered gluten-free graham crackers that I can actually eat. It was quite the discovery for me, as I have seen numerous brands, but they tend to use gluten-free flour blends that include flours that don’t agree with me (I’m looking at you, Garbanzo Bean flour <–who even thinks of this?!). These ones are oat-based, and while they do have just a bit of an overly oat-y flavor to them, I don’t mind. I usually dip them in applesauce (applesauce really is a greatly underrated dipping sauce) or you know, make s’mores.

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The chocolate brand is Lindt Excellence A Touch of Sea Salt

 

Sea Salt Chocolate + G-free Graham Crackers + Marshmallows = Snack Nirvana

I realize that I started this post saying that I don’t like sugar, and every snack suggestion I’ve made pretty much negates that fact.

Oops.

The first step is recognition of the problem?

Maybe I kind of do like sugar.

I think I will like sugar more once I finally sit down and make myself some Chex Mix. Chex went gluten-free a couple of years ago, and while I have heard of the wonders of Chex Mix (recipes available at http://www.chex.com/recipes/gluten-free), I’ve never had it myself. There seems to be quite a lot of sugar involved, so I will have to pace myself.

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If that’s even possible.

A lot of these recipes call for peanut butter, and nut butters and I are not friends. What’s a girl to do?

Call up her true friend, Sunflower Butter, that’s what.

Sunflower Butter is yummy, salty, and high in good fat. It tastes super good on apples or sandwiched between gluten-free crackers. It’s even got a bit of protein in it, so it can help fuel your holiday shopping escapades.

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Superfood? I think so.

Now, let’s see… if you dip one pretzel end in melted sea salt chocolate, roll it in chocolate sprinkles, let it cool, then dip the other end in sunflower butter…I think that counts as a well-balanced super snack. Salt, carbs, protein, good fat, and um, chocolate in one neat package.

Let the snacking commence!

IamChronicallyWell encourages you to snack responsibly!

 

Writing this post made me so hungry! What are your favorite holiday snacks- salted or unsalted? I’d love to hear about them (and get your recipes!) in the comments or over on my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell

FDR and a little self reflection

Last week on Thanksgiving, I spent some time at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in Washington, DC. It’s a really great spot- surrounded on both sides by the waters of the Potomac River, with planes taking off from Reagan National zipping along overhead. It’s also a pretty big memorial, as far as memorials go- it’s not a gigantic structure like the Lincoln or Jefferson, but rather, it’s a maze of slate that tells the story of our nation’s longest serving president’s legacy. See the wikipedia page to get an idea of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Delano_Roosevelt_Memorial

Know what’s pretty interesting?

FDR was a Chronic.

Polio is a nasty infectious disease, and FDR contracted it at age 39, long before the vaccine was discovered. He had lived a robust, outdoorsy, full life, and a random encounter with a mega-virus left him paralyzed from the waist down.

He could have decided that that was the end for him. Countless others affected by polio simply stopped living; disability was even more taboo in the 1920s than it is now.

The really great part is that FDR’s more-well known political pursuits were achieved post-polio. He served as Governor of New York, and then President of the United States, all while trying to figure out his “new normal.”

FDR was president during World War II, and the policies he put in place during that time set the course for our country in the 20th Century. He was so well received as president that he was elected to an unprecedented 4 terms as president. FDR could have served 16 years as president, but died from a stroke at the age of 63 one year into his fourth term. Still, he had been President for 12 years. It wasn’t until after his death that the 22nd Amendment was created to officially set a term limit to the presidency- 8 years; two, 4-year terms.

Now, FDR was very careful about his image when he was President. Apparently, there are only 2 known photographs of him in his wheelchair. He had specially-designed leg braces that allowed him to stand with the help of an aide, which he used when he made public speeches. He preferred to be photographed at his desk, which allowed him to present himself as “hard at work,” while allowing him a break from the difficulty of maneuvering the braces. It wasn’t until after his death that the public became aware of the full extent of his limitations.

That’s pretty inspiring to me. While finally being able to designate myself as a “medically disabled person” or a “chronic” or a “spoonie” has been a great source of validation for me, I don’t want it to separate me or somehow be a qualifier attached to my self-description. I want to be Nic, a great writer, blogger, and stuffed animal creator (and so much more!)…who happened to have a medical condition; not necessarily Nic, a sick person who wrote stuff and made stuff (that of course, is the harsh version!). When we think of FDR, we don’t think he was a physically disabled man who became a great president; we think he was a man who was a great president…while he also dealt with his physical limitations.

Some people may want to have their illness come first in their self-descriptions. I can see how it would be beneficial if say, you were starting a foundation for your illness. It can feel more credible when an organization is run by someone who actually has the illness themselves. But personally, outside of that, I don’t see a reason for my illness to take 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd place in my personal identity.

Of course, I want validation and acknowledgement that a lot of stuff is 10x harder when you have a chronic illness than if you don’t. For instance, I would really love to run 5k’s. Running a 5k when you have POTS feels like a tremendously hard thing to do (though I know some people who do-go you!). I think I’ll really love telling people how accomplished I feel one day when I finally finish something like that, and I’ll probably use some form of the phrase, “…and I did it even though I have POTS!”

The first time.

I hope that there will be a second, third, fourth, and one-hundreth time, and that after that first time, I’ll stop adding in that I did it while simultaneously dealing with a medical condition.

FDR didn’t stop and tell everyone about all the accommodations he needed and made in order to be the president. He didn’t go on and on about how he was doing what he wanted “in spite of” the limitations his illness placed on him. He just lived, did what he could, and didn’t bother with the rest.

I worry too much about my illnesses. I let them come to the forefront of my thought process too much sometimes, when I really don’t need them there.

If you have an illness, you know there are times where your symptoms make it impossible to ignore or be distracted from them- your illness is smack in front of your face (or on your face if you have PMLE!), and it demands attention. It levels you.

But occasionally, there may be times when it shrinks back just a bit, and you can see outside of it.

Those are the times I’m talking about; those are the times when I worry too much when I don’t need to. I need to stop inviting my illness to the forefront when it’s not forcing its way there on its own.

I remember when the FDR memorial was being built (it was dedicated in 1997). There was a lot of controversy over the statue of President Roosevelt where he is seated next to his dog, Fala. (The only presidential pet to be memorialized! Perhaps she was the first presidential therapy dog, and we are none the wiser?)

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The statue shows FDR with a cape draped over his chair, obscuring whether or not his seat is a wheelchair. It was how he was depicted most in life- like I said, he was a savvy PR person. But knowing that FDR had limitations and yet could still do all the things that the rest of the memorial portrays, is a very significant thing. The National Organization on Disability raised the funds to have a second statue erected at the opening of the memorial which clearly depicts President Roosevelt in a wheelchair.

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I’m glad it’s there. I’m glad the other one is still there too, unedited– because it shows the every day trials of someone dealing with a chronic, or otherwise incapacitating, condition. Do we show it all the time? Do we hide it? There are times when it decides for us- some symptoms are more visible than others.

It really comes down to a Tale of Two Statues—we don’t have to be just one thing, visible or invisible. We can ride the fluidity of our own situations.

It’s good either way; FDR shows us we can be great no matter what. ❤

Bonus Post : Etsy shop sale!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these stuffed friends on your couch this holiday season?

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I know you’ve all been eyeing them!

Special today: use coupon code CYBERMON10 to get 10% off. That’s in addition to $2 shipping and handling- a great value! Sale ends tonight at midnight, and regular pricing on items and shipping and handling returns tomorrow, so don’t delay!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts

*Sorry, International Friends, I can only ship to the United States right now.