Help Me, Help Me Breathe – Meditation

meditation

I need help and advice. I get caught up sometimes in the thousands of minute details and decisions that need to be made in a day. I realized this morning, before I was actually awake, that I hadn’t printed permission slips for both my children, didn’t unload the dishwasher from yesterday, read the mail, finish the laundry, go shopping and…… I did realize that after looking for socks in two different stores I wound up buying one of each in both stores; I now have socks that will probably last until 2019. This is not working for me. I need to focus.

It could be that my life is too busy this time of year, I am not great at organizing and I forget half the things I should remember. I could blame it on my Fibromyalgia and Fibro-Fog but I am sure I could help myself in some way. I need my writing pad to remind myself of all the things I need to do and my red pen to cross them off, one by one, but I get too preoccupied to find my notepad and don’t want to waste the time to find it.

Does that make sense to you?

I’ve told myself for years that I should meditate,” should” being the operative word. I haven’t done it yet;  I say I don’t have the time but that’s plain ridiculous. I should be able to be seated in a quiet place for twenty minutes every morning and every night and breathe deeply, to center my soul. Why is it that I can’t  or won’t do that?  Sometimes I am in such a great rush that I forget to breathe.

For now, I need to  remind myself to stay in the present, to not worry about things I have no control over, to take it slowly and not flip out about terrorist attacks and subway and train plots, earthquakes, terrorism, tsunami’s, cancer and all other life-threatening diseases. I need to stay in the moment and move those bad, anxiety provoking and terrifying thoughts away, like swatting at mosquitoes. Swatting away a bug comes naturally, changing my thoughts does not. I want to form a new habit,  focusing on the good, on the present and nothing else.  Oprah said that “weight loss was her nemesis” and I am not repeating it to be mean at all. Going into panic mode is my nemesis, my downfall, this is the one thing I have trouble changing.

Which brings me back to meditating, I think it might help. Here’s my question: can I just do it? Do I need to be taught? There are meditation courses but is that worth it? Does anyone out there meditate and find it useful? Please let me know, I would love to hear your thoughts and advice. Namaste.

The Sum Of Me

Henri Matisse, The Dance I, 1909, Museum of Mo...

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I am part of an internet group of dear friends who also have Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disease. We generally talk about the effects of this leech, this parasitic illness and how it makes us feel and how it affects our lives. It is what brings us together; and we truly care about one another. Imagine, a group of people who you have never met yet you trust them, seek out their advice. These people really do know how your pain feels.

We could discuss things we used to do but cannot do now. For me, I would talk about gardening and how I used to have a big vegetable garden many years ago when bending down to my knees and getting up was no problem. I would reminisce about the bright green English peas that grew, the fiery red cherry tomatoes that bathed in the sunlight, two kinds of lettuce and thick, orange carrots. I could also talk about the three miles I used walk in under an hour with my work friends each day, outside, around a blue-green reservoir. Maybe I would confess I was a size eight for about two minutes and twenty years ago while I was struggling with infertility issues and the deep, emotional pain of that process. “If I couldn’t have children, I was going to be skinny” was my mantra as I made myself march outside.

The summer before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and my children were at camp, I would take the train to New York City and relish being surrounded by people from all over the world, hearing them speak, watching the beautiful, colorful outfits that so many people donned in shades of rose, green, yellow, blue, shades of white and grey. Perhaps I would see a Broadway show for half price, go to a museum, or back to the Village and try to recognize it after many years. Going in to the city was like having an international picnic without even leaving the gleaming Grand Central Station.  I didn’t worry back then about getting to the city and how much walking I would have to do and whether I had to take a cab because I was so tired and drained that I couldn’t put one burning, aching, painful foot in front of the other.

Many blogs I read are about chronic pain and diseases, and I wonder at their brilliance. It’s a dilemna for me because while I do write about my chronic illness or two, I write about everything else in my life.  Am I doing myself a disservice? It could be. I write about food, depression, fun, family, television, friends, travel, grief, cheesecake, chocolate etc.  It’s a mix and mash-up of a blog, like a patchwork quilt with different patterns and colors. Do I need to define myself more clearly?  I may have just answered my own question. I am all things, not just one.

I am a patient, a parent, a friend, wife, mother, teacher and student. I love many things: reading books with beautiful covers, writing, taking photographs of children or benches or boats. I love to watch red cardinals and yellow finches at my bird feeder and butterflies winking by me. I love to eat good food, I am sweet on sweets, I dislike alcohol; coffee, orange juice, chocolate milk or Diet Coke are my beverages of choice, I drink them all at different times.

I could choose to pick one subject to write about but, it would not be my true self, of that I am sure. I am all over the place with emotions and experiences, flying, sometimes crawling, like red, yellow, blue and black kites sailing in the gusty wind, all tangled together, or in peaceful harmony, sometimes independently flying free. I am a person, with many  facets. I am as many pieces of my puzzle as I want. It’s my puzzle, I need to make the pieces fit,  for me.

Coffee vs. Tea

19-century porcelain tea- and coffee-cups styl...

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Coffee And Tea

Mmmmm. In the morning, when I first wake up, I look forward to very strong coffee that either my husband makes or that I make. We generally use about 3 scoops for a large mug and it is aromatic and strong. It is not for the weak or instant coffee drinker. Generally, I mix Cafe Bustelo (espresso) with some sort of flavored coffee to balance the taste. I’ve had coffee from the grocery store, like Hazelnut Creme or Vanilla Creme mixed with Starbucks (as a treat) or espresso.

I have favorite mugs as well, mostly thin-lipped, some classic like a Starbucks mug, some entertaining like a cow mug or a yellow mug with a thumb holder or a bull mug my husband bought me in Malaga that has a top to keep the coffee hot. If there ever is a morning that I don’t feel like a cup of very strong coffee, I am sick. Very sick. When I am sick, with a sore throat or a bad cold, I drink tea with honey and lemon. However, for a stomach virus I drink tea with milk and sugar only. In the fall and winter, when my daughter comes home from school, we drink a cup of tea together. My favorite tea-cup is one from my friend Sarah, a petite, red and white flowery design that belonged to her grandmother. I feel honored that she gave me that cup with a box of English tea she loves and now, that I love. I drink that tea every afternoon; sometimes my daughter keeps me company and she drinks green tea. I love those times together.

For me, it isn’t a matter of coffee or tea, it’s both, for different reasons, different times and different lessons to learn. I gather my thoughts with one cup and yet another one calms me down, and of course, in the early morning, strong coffee, a hearty roast, kick starts and welcomes me to start the new day.

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“What Music Do You Work Out To?”

Simon and Garfunkel Mrs Robinson UK EP

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Non-Work Out Music?  Sure.

Oh, be serious, not EVERYONE works out. I am not speaking just for myself but on behalf of some friends of mine…..well, we don’t work out at all. We walk. I can’t honestly say this is a work-out though it is well-intentioned but speed walkers we are not. We stroll, we talk, we share and we don’t listen to music but to each other. It’s our time to be with each other, when the wind is a gentle breeze, when the sun is not intense and when it is not cold out. Are we particular when we want to walk outside? You bet! Besides, I am the most particular since I have a chronic pain disease called Fibromyalgia and usually I have to conquer my aches and pains to even get out the door. It isn’t easy.

If I was to walk alone or use the treadmill ( LOL) the songs I would listen to would be “Story” by Sarah Ramirez (from Grey’s Anatomy), a 1980’s song by the group, Red, whose name I have forgotten entirely and possibly anything upbeat from the Beatles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I am stuck in the 1970’s with my taste in music and when CD’s were not born yet and I listened to records, over and over again. Unfortunately, my chubby body is still stuck in the seventies as well! The best thing about being in your fifties, is image matters less and quality of life matters much, much more. Enjoy your life, whether you work out or not.

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Move Over ESL, Cranky Is My New Language

A housecat named Princess who highly disliked ...

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It was one of THOSE days. You know the kind, when nothing goes right, annoying things happen and no matter what you try, it doesn’t help.  Made a decision, did you? Guess what, it was the wrong one. It was the day of Cranky. I spoke Cranky, I lived and ate and breathed Cranky. If I had a cat, her name would be Cranky.  I felt irritable with life’s problematic surprises and unexpected twists and I felt very out of control.

My children doused the only piece of furniture that I love, my green couch, with water guns. No, my children are not 4 and 6 years old, they are 16 and 18.  Need I say more? The couch, that I picked out, and the multi-colored  square rug beneath it have always made me happy. Why? Because it was the first thing that I bought with great strength of style and character; I was so sure about it and didn’t waver; to me, it was my own tiny corner of the Museum of Modern Art, at home.

Later that day we drove to a restaurant to celebrate my husband’s birthday. He got lost again and again. Nor did he have the directions with him, he didn’t NEED that, we had been there twice before, silly me!! When I suggested the GPS, he scoffed. He also made an illegal red turn with the (driving) teenagers in the back seat of the car. I was fuming. Dude, what the HELL were you thinking? You’re supposed to be the role model here. At that moment, fuming and cranky became first cousins.

Once seated in the restaurant our daughter, a vegetarian, asked for the chef’s special vegetable plate and we all knew she wouldn’t touch it. She played with her food and moved vegetables around that included: cooked kale and spinach, and fennel and she ate about two bites for 21 dollars. Before she ordered we suggested she order A SALAD  or pasta but she refused. She knew better and at practically 17 anything we suggest is useless. I even said she might want to tell the waitress the vegetables that she DID like but apparently my idea was stupid. Of course it was.

My husband and son shared a steak the size of a lobster pot, it was so large and bloody, it was hard to even take a glance at it.  I decided to have three appetizers: a buttery bibb lettuce salad with a light yogurt dressing  which was lovely, an appetizer of braised ribs ravioli, sweet and soft, the texture of the braised meat contrasting the delicate ravioli casing.  The red velvet cake I chose for dessert was extremely disappointing and tasteless. For those of you who know me, a dessert I don’t like is equal to a symphony of crankiness.

The heel of my left foot throbbed horribly with pain when I walked, the jabbing pain even woke me up in the middle of the night. Not being able to walk comfortably is crankiness personified. I have iced it, wrapped it, rubbed it and have tried at least ten different shoe and old, peeling orthotic combinations, nothing helps.  I’ve had this before and once it starts it takes a long, long time to go away. It’s a stubborn, stupid, painful, cranky, old ailment for cranky, old, me. It’s not enough that I don’t have energy? Now, I can’t even walk comfortably.

I’m tired as hell and just want to lie on the bed, since every bone and joint in my body is not just aching with pain but screaming with it. There are no medications to heal it, or relieve it, it’s something I have to live with every single day and night of my life. I am trying to stay awake and of course I fall asleep, the lights on, the computer on my stomach. I wake up two hours later, annoyed with myself.

The day and night have not gone well and I was glad it was almost over. I couldn’t sleep after my unexpected two hour nap so my night and day hours were confused. I glanced over at my dog who was sleeping happily at the foot of my bed and I watched her breathe and smile in her sleep.  I look at her with love and feel love. My dog is the anti-cranky.

My Idea of Perfect Weather

Is this a flickr cliché?

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Sun, Sugar And My Soul

Perfect weather: a bright blue sky with shiny puffs of cotton-candy shaped clouds, the sun warming my hair and no rain in sight. It’s a day where I sit outside in an old green lawn chair and watch the red cardinals and finches and funny birds with yellow mohawk haircuts visiting and eating from the bird feeder. I don’t chase the squirrels away, they eat the sprinkled food I leave on the ground for them. I laugh as they play and chase each other around always looking glassy-eyed and shocked. I love to see the bright yellow dandelions popping up amongst the green grass. I stare at the brightness of the yellow flower and the puffy, soft bristles that we blew in the wind when we were innocent children, making wishes, believing they would come true.

I would have a picnic outside with family and friends because we all know that everything tastes so much better if you eat it outdoors. Sandwiches on rye bread, thick with cheese and ham or cucumbers, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese on French bread with a drizzle of light green olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper and pungent oregano. Art in a sandwich. We would drink home-made lemonade, sweet with sugar and the juice of many yellow, spongy lemons. There would be a variety of sugar cookies, spicy ginger snaps, chocolate chip brownies and my famous banana bread moist, rich with plump raisins and a dusting of brown sugar. Sunshine, sugar, sweetness, the essence of my soul; while these magical days don’t come often, we appreciate them more when they do appear, like a gift from the sky.

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Are You Even Aware, Do You Care? (ChronicBabe Blog Carnival)

woman

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Dear Doctors,

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is May 12, but I bet mostly people who suffer from this debilitating illness know that.  There are people, fellow doctors even, who still think this is all in our heads. That IS the most insulting thing of all. Do you think we would choose this way of life? On purpose? Do you think that we would want to feel pain in every muscle and joint in our bodies for the fun of it? Maybe we just want attention, is that what you think? Do you know that I was diagnosed with two chronic illnesses within a matter of months and that menopause was the catalyst? Did you know that it was menopause that turned my body inside out and sideways, plumped up my lower belly and shattered my metabolism?  Do you know I eat less than the average child but I don’t lose weight and walking around the block twice is considered a work out?

I am going tomorrow to my third Rheumatologist to see what he has to say. He’s local, convenient and since I have had such different points of view from previous doctors I’d like to add yet another opinion to my massively, confused, Fibro Fog memory. That is if I can remember what we talk about which is as likely to happen as Christmas in July. I will try though, I will write things down, I will do intensive listening. I want to hear what you have to say. I wonder if you realize that a Fibromyalgia patient making an appointment to see you is not simple at all? It isn’t, we have to get there too and that is always a work in progress.

Did you know I saw a famous Rheumatologist for years, only to find out later, that the strong, immunosuppressant medications he prescribed could have destroyed me? That the medications he prescribed for me in his fancy office with his “Best Doctor Awards” on his walls, are only supposed to be used to protect a vital, organ? I didn’t know that either until another Doctor, actually two, told me.

Awareness is not just acknowledging a disease or many diseases; it is also imperative to take the accompanying emotional distress that it brings too. It’s no longer just me, it’s me and my shadow. We bring baggage, physical and emotional because many of us have dealt with this elusive, enigma of a disease for many years. Please, bear with us.

Even if you mean the best, you might not want to say “I know how you feel” because unless you are a patient, you don’t.  You can’t walk in my aching shoes, the soles of my feet are rigid, hurt and are on fire, right to the top of my head that aches at times with horrendous headaches, pounding me like turbulent waves on stoic rocks.  Are you aware, Doctors, that when some of  you treat us chronic patients like drug seeking  heroin addicts you demean us? You take away any sense of self-respect that we once had in the past? We know you try to help us but please understand how we feel. We feel pain, we just want some relief, once in a while when we need it the most. Try and understand that, we’re not looking for a quick high or to be comatose on life-altering drugs. We just want to be able to breathe without pain for a short time, ONLY, when we need it the most.

I’ll leave you with one thought. We know you try to help make us feel better. Just remember a moment of compassion, a light hand on our shoulder, an extra second of your smile means a lot, especially when we feel we have so little. If your son or daughter had the same disease and our same symptoms, would you treat him or her any differently? If you have to think about it, please consider treating us, like you would them.

Thank you very much for your time.

My Freckles Are Spreading, No Really

Ashton Kutcher at Time 100 Gala

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I was in a small shopping mall last week and I passed a mirror and I thought, for a quick second, that I saw my reflection. No, that couldn’t be me. I must have seen someone else. Whoever it was, looked bloated, tired, pale and cranky. She was wearing a green shirt, and mom jeans with protruding stomach rolls, and she was frowning furiously that showed deep wrinkle lines.  That’s NOT me! Um, but I am wearing the same outfit and my eyes are green…..

Maybe the mirror I looked in was one of those funny mirrors that they use in amusement parks, or pranks!  I looked around for Ashton Kutcher because I thought I was being  “Punked”or at the very least, pranked. Ashton, however  was no where in sight and the only camera looking at me was a security camera following my every, suspicious move.

That old, sad, mad, fat person warily looking back at me made me want to weep and hide in some stranger’s musty attic or move to Canada or better yet, Italy. I can give good advice to others about positive body image but it wasn’t working for me today.  Today, I flunked the course.  I  ordered a chopped salad for lunch (appetizer size) and I had that lovely tiny slice of Italian cheesecake with the essence of orange, but don’t those things cancel each other out?

If big, cranky, frowning lady wasn’t enough I also saw that there is now something quite wrong with my skin. I’ve always had that pale, cream-cheese complexion but things are changing.  My freckles are joining together; I’m sure that’s what it must be.  It couldn’t be the dreaded old age spots, could it? This day just keeps getting better and better.

Just one more thing: I remembered the cashier at A & P  who asked me my age. I was so confused…..until she told me that Seniors, 55 and older get 5% off their bill on Tuesdays. It was Tuesday and while I am not 55, I’m really damn close. So, thanks for the discount but your people skills stink.

I know all the reasons why women gain weight in their, (cough, cough) mid to later years and I lend these pearls of wisdom to friends as easily as I would a  button-down blue sweater. My own body crashed with Menopause, followed closely by an Underactive Thyroid condition and an Auto-immune Disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. After that, I was diagnosed with  Fibromyalgia. But, today I’m just not buying it. I don’t care, I just know how awful I feel. Today, I am allowing myself to sulk.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to put things in perspective. I will remember that good health is more important than weight, that I have a wonderful family and I am grateful for so many things. As for the cheesecake? It was worth every bite. The mirror? That, was pure evil.

Scents that Evoke Memories…

Nivea products

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Cream And Cologne

The scent of Nivea cream brings back immediate memories of my young mother dipping her delicate fingers in the beautiful blue jar of white, fluffy cream. She would dab it on her face, while I, a young girl, looked on. My mom looked like a movie star to me as she blended the sweet-smelling cream on her cheeks and forehead and smiling face. The beautiful blue jar alone looked pretty and special and the lotion smelled like almonds and ocean and fresh air. It felt rich and luxurious, like heavy cream and velvet blended together. I grew up calling it Ni-vey-ah and of course, thought that was the name of it. It wasn’t until I saw a television commercial years ago that I realized it was pronounced Niv-ee-a.

I didn’t know, growing up, that my parents had European accents and that my sister and I were brought up with European manners, which was a big deal to our parents and apparently different from our American friends. We also repeated things that we heard from our parents as our friends giggled mercilessly; we didn’t know any other way. To this day I still mispronounce some words to the merriment of my own children who, of course, know everything better and correct me right away.

When I smell a man’s cologne (or shaving lotion as my dad called it), I think of my father, when he was alive, picking an after shave cologne from his collection of 13 different bottles that stood on a shelf like soldiers. Sometimes, he put on so much we said he smelled like a “perfume factory” which didn’t bother him one tiny bit. He was proud of his distinct, and different scents from all over the world. Even though he has been dead ten years, I still miss the smell of his cologne. It’s like the world is only one dimensional now, the scent of smell forgotten. Sometimes I will dab on an old cologne of my father’s on my wrists but it doesn’t smell the same. That smell, like everything else that made him my dad, was lost and buried years ago.

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I’m Participating in NaBloPoMo. May 1, 2011, “Maybe”

The Sandwich Generation

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It’s my mother’s birthday we are all celebrating with her. I also have to go with my son  a senior in high school to get fitted for a tuxedo for the prom. I’m being pulled in two directions at the same time. Maybe, I should stop worrying so much about what other people think and just do the best job I can. I’m not perfect but I am trying to be kind to everyone. I don’t think it’s working. I feel stressed.  I want today to be fun for everybody but I just can’t shake the feeling that my mom will be upset that I am leaving her brunch (after two hours) to do something for my son. The “Sandwich Generation” I truly cannot win but I know I am not alone in this situation. I thought I was over being a “people-pleaser” I guess not.