RESUME

Qualifications

  • Writer experienced in crafting interviews, advertorials, editorials, book reviews, in depth personal profiles, SEO writing, professional book editing, and content management
  • Articles written for a variety of publications including: Yoganonymous, Meridian Life Magazine, and a.l.p.h.a

 

Experience

2014 Madison Publications: Meridian Life Magazine Meridian, Idaho

Freelance Writer

§  Interviewed community leaders and clients for articles

§  Worked closely with the Managing Editor

§  Wrote articles, interviews and advertorials

 

2009 Stonehouse Ink Boise, Idaho

Freelance Editor

§  Work with authors to obtain a clear narrative, vision, and storyline

§  Edit and proofread books for publication

2008-2009 Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS Boise, Idaho

Editor/Writer

§  Wrote monthly articles educating the public about HIV/ AIDs, covering events, and describing community resources

§  Conducted interviews with community leaders and business owners

§  Content manager/ Editor

2000-2014 Centurylink Boise, Idaho

Technical Support Representative

§  Responsible for guiding customers through step by step installation of DSL

§  Find and eliminate technical problems are having with DSL

 

Education

2003-2007 Boise State University Boise Idaho
·       B.A., English with an Emphasis in Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Miracle is my Body

(Published originally on Yoganonymous.com)

So much of my life is built around distracting from my endometriosis pain right now. I watch TV or listen to music while reading. If I engage my mind enough then I can ignore the pain. It is only partially successful.

I realized, as I walked to the library, that distraction is how I’ve always gotten through exercise. I don’t like to sweat. It is uncomfortable, although I am working on that distaste. Exercise has always caused pain in my ankles and I’ve never been good at aerobic activity. Today I walked, in the heat, as fast as I could manage to the beat of my Lady Gaga Pandora channel. I used the beat of Pitbull’s “Shake Senora” to move faster and faster. By the time I made it to the library I was dripping with sweat and my pants were sticking to me. If there were such a thing as tiny men, they could have slid down my cleavage like a slip and slide.

This is in total contrast to my yoga experience. Every move in yoga has to be thoughtfully carried out. For one, my balance, as it stands, is horrible. Some of the poses require me to be on one foot or one knee. I have trouble with standing on two feet or balancing on both knees. I am learning and practicing over and over, but seriously have to concentrate. I have to feel every part of my body and muscles I didn’t know existed. Normally when exercising, I would try to ignore pain in my muscles or work through it, using the adage “no pain, no gain” or more likely I’d give up. With yoga, if there is pain—I am doing something wrong. Not only do I have to concentrate on my muscles, hand and foot placement, and balance, but then there is the breathing. Yoga just isn’t the same without the breathing. The deep breathing brings in a sense of calm that I have never experienced with other exercise.

It amazes me the contrast. I love the difference. I believe that is why I love yoga. I love how I can totally immerse myself in the activity. I breathe slowly and deeply. I free my mind of anything that doesn’t have to do with the pose at hand. When it is really good and I have focused enough towards the end of the practice I am more aware of what my body is doing than I have ever been.

There is gain with no pain. Don’t get me wrong I feel strain on my muscles but I don’t feel pain. I have always ignored my body because I have been told no pain no gain.  I wasn’t very good at sports because of my bad ankles, and I was never the type of body I wanted. I got told repeatedly by society, my family, and even “friends” I was the wrong body type. When I repeatedly fail at something, I tend to forget about trying it again. I have hated my body because of what it could not do. It could not be good at aerobics, softball, or volleyball. Even worse, it could not be skinny. Don’t get me wrong, it was thin at one time, just not the thin that was popular in my youth. It was curvy thin. I hated it. I wanted to be the woman who could wear pleated pants and poofy shirts a’ la Different World. I wanted to be Lisa Bonet.

I surely didn’t want to be me, with my curves and very strong muscled legs. I wanted to be like a reed in the wind. Then I became known for my curves and then abused because of them, and then I wanted to be a bulldozer, not a human.  So more and more I retreated into this body, and wore it like a coat, a covering for my soul but not something that affected my soul.  If I could distance myself from my body then I would not be responsible for it or how it made other people think about me. I thought I’d focus on what I was good at, reading.

Recently, I have distanced myself so far from my body because it seemed mean to me; the pain my body brings me, the interruption to my day, and pushback of my goals. My body has been a bitch for quite a long time. (While some of that has been caused by ignoring her, most of it hasn’t. The pain can’t be exercised away. It can only be burned away or excised by a doctor). Trust me it wasn’t hard to get mad at my body.

Yoga has helped me to forgive her. Yoga has helped me see that this body people made fun of, that wasn’t good at sports, had weak ankles and poor balance – even she could be loved. At first, yoga was another distraction from the pain but as I got into it, and as I started awakening the understanding of my body’s minutiae, yoga started easing the pain. I started to realize that just like any love I had to actively participate in the caring for the object of my affection in order for it to thrive. Those balance issues are still there, but it works my ankles and they are getting stronger. I am so aware of my body: I can tell when I am going to start sweating. I feel the heat from within and I welcome it. For the first time in my life I welcome sweat. What’s more is that the first time I did it, I was really bad at it, but the more I practiced –miraculously- I got better. For the first time in my life, I got better at exercise. Each pose takes time to master, but when success comes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my body.

 

It is only recently through yoga and my families help have I been able to figure out a way to celebrate what my body is capable of. I am super stretchy, more than the average bear. My body likes yoga, it craves it. I am a good swimmer. I am a good dancer, with a natural rhythm. My legs are super strong. I ride bicycles with ease. I am double jointed in my fingers, I do a mean downward dog, and I am working my way up to hour long yoga sessions. I am resilient; I fail at these poses but keep trying.  I am able to heal pretty easily if I take care of my body. Because of yoga, I am finally able to see what a miracle is my body.

An Inspiration

(Originally published for a.l.p.h.a – Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS)

When I met Craig Chappelle, I was allured with the way he carries himself. He has a quiet confidence, a sort of smooth, action hero swagger. I think Craig lost his calling: He should have been a spy. I picture him saying, “Shaken, not stirred.”  On anyone else it might come off as arrogance if not for the kindness in his eyes and in the way he relates to people.  Craig is the kind of person doesn’t judge you, and would give his left leg for you. Not only is he a friend to those he knows but has been giving his time to those he doesn’t here at a.l.p.ha.

I suppose the swagger comes from life experiences good and bad. Craig was diagnosed in a time when AIDS first made headlines. Diagnosed HIV positive in 1990 he says, “At first, I was in denial about it. Then I got tested and my numbers where okay. My partner on the other hand was sick and he had full blown AIDS and we had split up. I tried to take him back, to take care of him, but he wouldn’t do it. He died in 1993, before they had the drugs that they have now. It was a pretty horrible death. Up to this point, my numbers have been fine. So far I haven’t had to take meds. I have certainly lived my life for a long time like I thought I was gonna die because I was going to so many funerals. All my friends were dying, people were dying all over the country, all over the world. So I didn’t exactly live the most pristine life style. I partied and had a real good time, cause I figured I was on my way out.”

I asked him what changed, because I know Craig to be very health conscious. He eats right and works out. He says, “Nothing, I am a little calmer now.” He still parties and lives life to the fullest, but when he turned fifty he felt a change. “When my fiftieth birthday was coming up in January, I was just like here I am. I am fifty. I never thought I’d see forty, and I am fifty. And I just thought I needed to make some kind of sense of it, that’s why I joined a.l.p.h.a.”

Joined a.l.p.h.a. is an understatement. He is the Finance Director of a.l.p.h.a., one of four directors that answer directly to the founder and president. Craig’s responsibilities include bringing in the money and making sure it’s recorded correctly. Always on the job, he asks me to include; he is looking for a fundraising manager. I have heard this from many of his colleagues that Craig’s contributions are invaluable. I know that isn’t lip service because he helped me with two of my articles this week. Who ever heard of a finance director helping with the newsletter? He goes above and beyond.

Not only does he volunteer but he manages to hold down two jobs. His main job is for Qwest as a technical support screener, but he also sells residential real estate on the side. He sold me my home, and as a first time home buyer I highly recommend him. I don’t know how he has spare time, but in it–he makes beautiful stained glass creations.

I am amazed at all he does, and when asked if HIV has ever affected his work, he replies, “I’ve been open about it with my friends. I am not going to hide it, if someone asks me a question. I have been really lucky that way. I work for a company like Qwest where I can’t be fired for my sexual orientation. You just have to face it head on. Deal with it. Get involved. Don’t isolate yourself, that’s the biggest thing.”

When asked if his HIV diagnosis affects his relationships he says, “Well it affects dating big time because a lot of guys will just run the other way: others are cool with it. I am not very comfortable dating HIV negative guys. I have before and I have never knowingly given it to anyone. I would rather date an HIV positive person.”

With everything Craig does every day and with this diagnosis he still remains positive, “I just try to take care of my health and on the HIV side of it, my numbers sort of slip every year so eventually I will have to take medication.  I work out. I eat pretty carefully.  I eat a lot of antioxidants. I eat real food. I try not to eat out very much. I just try to follow the basic health rules that have been drilled into us for years. You have to eat real food and eat correctly and you have to work out, basic stuff.”

When I ask what he would want people to know Craig replies, “They need to become aware, they need to get tested, and they need to get involved. We are starting our new “twenty five will keep us alive” membership drive. We are just asking for a twenty five dollar membership, once a year, from a lot of people. That would fund us– that would grassroots fund us, and it’s in every body’s best interest. You know, the “at risk” groups are 15 to 24 year old girls and boys and middle age women.  The gay infection rate is about 40%, so it’s not even half anymore. A.l.p.h.a.’s mission is what I would want them to know.”

“Even not becoming sick, still HIV has changed my life; changed my thinking, caused a lot of depression, caused a lot of emotional problems, and caused a lot of destructive behavior. I did a lot of things that I shouldn’t have done, and didn’t do a lot of things that I should have done. Like 401K, why?  So the other thing that I would want them to know is that yes, it is a manageable disease, but there’s a cost to that. There are lots of side effects and it will change your whole life if you catch it. There are a lot of people who are getting tested now who have full blown AIDS, have had it for a long time, and have probably been spreading it. Getting tested is so important and being aware of it. We can slow the spread of AIDS. People that get tested and know are much less likely to pass it on than someone that doesn’t know.”

And for those who already have it? “Get involved. And get involved at least to the level of never passing it to someone else, practicing very safe sex, because there is still some of that going on.”

With the conclusion of our interview Craig saunters away with a purposeful yet smooth posture, leaving me to ponder his convictions. Having inspired me to also donate my time, I know how motivating he can be, just by his actions.  However, I think anyone can be motivated by his words.

Luxury with a Conscience

(Originally printed in Meridian Life Magazine)

At Rain Salon and Spa they take care of you and the community

Walk through the door of Rain Salon and Spa and right away the rejuvenation starts. It’s not just the muted green, tan, and brown walls, or the soft music, or even the calm manner of the women working there. It is the smell of lavender sprigs, jasmine vines, aloe leaves, and rosemary herbs in the air.  All those smells together seem like they would be too much, but Aveda has a special lightness to it that instantly calms the nerves. Aveda has roots deep in the ground. All of its products are made from naturally occurring ingredients: 90% of their essential oils and 89% of their raw herbal ingredients are certified organic. Because it is natural it isn’t overpowering. The Aveda smell is just soothing.

That’s the goal of Rain Salon and Spa to ease, not only the body, but the mind and spirit. “The reason why I called it Rain was because when it rains people feel like they don’t have to do anything that day, like I can stay in, I can relax,  I can give myself permission to be relaxed,” explains Michele Duke, owner of Rain.  “I want my guests to feel that way when they come in here. They can relax and their cares go away.” Whether you’re coming in for a simple manicure, a basic haircut or a 90 minute massage, you’ll walk away feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Part of obtaining that feeling of relaxation is in the little extra touches Rain provides. With each hair cut customers receive a complimentary scalp massage with blue chamomile oil, minty and fresh. With a hair color Rain provides a complimentary hand massage or a makeup touch up. These rituals calm the customer before starting any treatments. The Aveda products used at Rain also contribute to the relaxing experience. Aveda is plant based, focusing on the five senses. “Everything we do is based off of that,” says Duke, “From the scents that a person chooses for their massage to the scents that are in the shampoos and conditioners, styling aids and even the makeup.”

What’s great is enjoying all this with a clear conscience. Rain and Aveda strive to give back to the community. Every year Aveda sponsors an Earth Month to raise money to protect the Earth. They were the first company to produce their products with entirely certified wind power. They also help the communities that provide some of their ingredients get access to clean water. Rain participates in these events, as well as, other projects on the local level. “We try to give back to our community where we can, and let people know [that] because they support us, we want to support them too,” explains Duke.           “For different women’s organizations, St. Baldrick’s for kids, and at the extended care [facility], we had stylists go over there and give women haircuts who could not get out of bed.”

It’s this social and environmental responsibility that makes Rain a different type of spa. They make every effort for their guests to feel good about the treatments they receive—not only externally but internally as well. So, after an hour massage, sitting in the decompression room on the comfortable lush green chairs, sipping wine, enjoying the fire place, and smelling the sweet relaxing aroma, guests can rest easy in the knowledge of self improvement, but also contributing to Earth’s community.

A Dentist Taking in the Entire Picture

(Originally printed in Meridian Life Magazine)

Alpine Heights Dentistry puts patients at ease, while looking beyond teeth

The waiting room for Alpine Heights Dentistry might be mistaken for a spa. Everything is designed to relax: warm beige walls, comfortable chairs, and TV’s above every dental chair. The one exception is a large children’s area called the S.S. Davis in the left corner, painted by a friend of the doctor’s. It looks like a giant pirate ship with a TV and toys inside.  The women at the front desk immediately smile and offer a bottle of water. Some have been working for Dr. Jeff Davis since he opened the practice eight years ago. The hygienist Tabitha Stader explains, “I tell him all the time, I want to retire here. He is passionate, but also a perfectionist. It is good to work for someone you believe in for that long.”

Dr. Davis inspires that loyalty by employing a family first ethic, which allows the staff to feel comfortable in their jobs. This relaxed environment builds a strong team ready to meet any challenge in order to make this office work.

Whether it’s fillings, crowns or root canals, the doctor uses the best products available. To diagnose small cavities he uses the latest in lasers and digital, low dose radiography.  Dr. Davis consistently uses the best materials from bonding agents to crowns. In his cosmetic dentistry he finds particular joy. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the job; changing someone’s smile helps their self esteem.” Dr Davis beams, “It can change a person’s life which is fun to watch.”

While Dr. Davis concentrates on teeth, he knows that dentistry involves the whole body which, he says, can tell him a lot. If the patient is showing discomfort with the head pillow or gripping the chair tightly: discomfort is going to get noticed here. The other way Dr. Davis looks beyond a patient’s mouth is by taking the time for a thorough consultation. “’Somebody will come in and say I’m brushing regularly, flossing regularly, but I have two cavities, what’s going on here?’” Dr. Davis continues, “So definitely we look at diet, the types of things they are eating, how they are brushing, and stress level. We even have antioxidant questions on the questionnaire. They don’t fill out the health history for nothing. We are trying to help that person in their life. Certainly oral health is connected to general health; it’s all tied together.”

All these features are part of the relationship-based care Alpine Heights Dentistry practices.  Dr. Davis credits his success to his staff, “Everyone really gets along, which helps create a team atmosphere. From the front desk getting to know patients, asking them how their day is, to the assistant that is free for a minute coming in and talking to a patient. Everybody really gets to know the patients. Instead of being a number or a procedure; we care for them as a whole person.”

Exercising with Fibro

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My making a bridge with my body, during Yoga with Adriene. I don’t know why it doesn’t look the same…lol

If normal people don’t exercise very much and then go out and run a mile, the next day they will feel sore. When I go out and run a mile after not exercising, the next day I can barely walk to the bathroom, and the next day and the next day. Three days. I wouldn’t be able to move.

So, I started swimming which is low impact and looked into yoga. I love swimming and was living at an apartment complex that had a pool so I started swimming laps a little at a time. I added more minutes to the pool every week.  That is the first thing I recommend for people with fibro—START SLOW. Start ten minutes and make five of those warming up. Not stretching but warming up. Slow soft movements for about five minutes. If you don’t hurt tomorrow add five more minutes. The trick is to be able to exercise tomorrow. Don’t over due anything. I think that is the biggest thing I have learned through all of my reading and exercising and trying things. The goal isn’t to do as much as you can. That is for the “normals.” That is the baseline of a person who doesn’t have a body of faulty nerves. I have fibromyalgia. The goal for me is to do as much as I can but still be able to walk tomorrow.

Yoga has been a life saver. Especially now that I have moved to Philadelphia to an apartment building without a pool. At first, I just read a lot about yoga, watched demonstration videos and tried stuff in my apartment. I didn’t even have a yoga mat at first. I put down a blanket and just tried poses on the floor after a lot of research. You have to really read about the poses, watch many videos before trying the poses. I started just googling my problem areas. I would google “yoga poses for a stiff back.” Then all these poses would come up. Another one to google is restorative yoga.

I have read studies of people doing just restorative yoga and losing weight. If you google it, you’ll see it is amazingly decadent. It is the yoga of laying around and deeply breathing. It is laying around the best way, the most productive possible way but seriously ya’ll it is just… laying around. It sounds like hokum, I know, but it isn’t. It is true. See, the thing is, we are so stressed as a people that we need to deep breathe to get out of this horrible pain cycle. Dr. Ginevra L. Liptan, MD who wrote The Fibromanual recommends deep breathing in order to activate this thing called the relaxation response. Basically, concentrating on your breath and exhaling heavily can help your fibromyalgia pain. What does yoga do besides make you move your body? It calls for you to breathe deeply.

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Supplies: a yoga mat from Walgreens, a pillow, and my Wonder Woman blanket sister gave me, an epic reminder of strong women.

So, after performing a pretty good homemade routine for a while, I went searching for more. There are times in my life when I am going to the doctor three times a week. Between physical therapy (which I will talk about later) and doctor’s appointments trying to solve my pain problems and the fact we are a one income relationship, we can’t afford paying for a gym membership (or I’d swim too). I needed free videos. Two I recommend: Sleepy Santosha and Yoga with Adriene.

Sleepy Santosha- She is a fellow sufferer of chronic illness. Her videos are so great because she knows what it is like to be chronically ill. She understands what we need. Some of the videos are in bed, or on the couch. Some of them are very relaxing but she has some challenging ones as well. You can find her by going to YouTube and searching for Sleepy Santosha or at her web site https://www.sleepysantosha.com/

Yoga with Adriene- I like to call her the yoga nerd. Have you ever had a teacher that was so deeply excited about the material that it was contagious? Adriene is like that. Her videos are challenging but also her theme is “Find what Feels Good.” So, while I finish her workouts sweaty and feeling like I got a workout, she also gives modifications for those of us who might have problems. She runs you through the poses in small slow movements in most of her videos so that you feel the change in your body and understand how your muscles work. She reminds you often that if you are in pain, you are doing it wrong. Also, she makes cute corny jokes and her dog makes appearances. You can search YouTube for Yoga with Adriene or go to her web site at http://yogawithadriene.com/

 

The thing I like about yoga the most is that it makes me feel good about my body. So often with fibro I feel like my body has failed in some way. Because of the pain, I made my body live separate from me. I had my mind. I thought that was enough. Through yoga I started for ten, then twenty, then thirty minutes to actively listen to my body and what it was telling me. The best part was my body had nice things to say during yoga. After three months or so of doing yoga- just my little homemade researched poses-I was able to start listening to my body more and more when I wasn’t doing yoga. I started having thoughts like my shoulder is tight. I should do that hugging myself pose (I think it’s called a half eagle pose, but I am not an instructor). Most importantly, I started recognizing when my body needs to move, or rest, or breathe.

I do yoga because the stretch feels good, the movement is good for me, but most of all because it helps me be friends with my body. I think any one who has a chronic illness can appreciate that is the hardest, most spectacular thing to accomplish.

I’m Not Sorry…Anymore

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Plus, I can still bake cakes!

I still mourn over breakfast. I used to make elaborate breakfasts and invite family and friends over. I loved cooking early in the morning. It is a remarkable confidence boost to pull off a delicious breakfast. You have to time all the dishes so they are hot at the same time. You run back and forth with the flapjacks and coffee. It is a meal that I relate to showing love. Momma always makes a hearty breakfast. I come from a long line of people who work with their hands. Breakfast is a stick to your ribs type affair and Momma does it up. I used to too. Since I started getting fibro flares every morning, I wake up in severe pain. My feet and hands don’t want to move, and a lot of the time hubby has to massage them before I can walk or hold things in my hands. The rest of my body isn’t doing so well either, with the aching and stiff muscles and sometimes severe pain in my hips and shoulders. This really does not make me in the making breakfast mood.

My husband is the greatest in the entire world. He makes breakfast most of the time before going to work. For a while I felt intense shame, guilt and yes…mourning. I was sad I couldn’t entertain like I used too, I couldn’t show love like I used too. Luckily, husband isn’t here for my breakfasts. He loves me for my cuddles, my adoration, my conversation, and my wit. He loves me deeply and without breakfast. Every morning I was apologizing to him for not feeling well. He would say, “I know, but you are sick. I understand.”

There is only so many times you can wake up to feeling bad before depression sits in and you don’t want to do anything at all, all day. Also, saying you’re sorry over something you have no control over is also pretty debilitating. I say I am sorry for my body more times than I can count. I am sorry I am sick. I am sorry I didn’t clean today. I am sorry I am depressed. I am sorry I am emotional. I am sorry I don’t have enough energy to make breakfast. I am sorry I can’t walk there. I am sorry I can’t make that coffee date. I am sorry I can’t meet my volunteer commitment. I am sorry I can’t spend time or energy on this or that. Pain has no understanding of my schedule. Pain doesn’t care what I want and it sure as hell doesn’t care what anyone else wants.

So, I am not apologizing anymore. I’m done. I will say thank you, when my husband takes the reins on meals, when he does more than his share of chores, or applies his healing hands to my painful muscles. I will say thank you for understanding when my friend isn’t upset because I am going to miss a coffee date. I will say thank you when I have to beg off a call because the fibro fog has taken over and I just can’t deal. I will say thank you and value the people in my life who help me when I need it. I will continue to be a good friend and partner, but I will not…say…I am sorry…anymore.

I will not be sorry for my genetic makeup. I don’t believe anyone who has chronic pain, a disease or syndrome should. There is no cure. There are only treatments which slightly lessen my pain and even that seems random. I can’t fix it, you can’t fix it. Saying sorry makes me feel deficient, lacking. I don’t believe that anyone in my life would say that I am not a good friend or family member, even if I feel like it all the time. I am trying to break myself from feeling hopeless. I can’t continue to feel like I am inadequate.

To my friends and relatives: If you catch me feeling sorry for myself or saying sorry, call me on it. To my fellow fibro sufferers: You are enough. I hope you understand just being a human and friend is enough. You don’t have to bake the best cookies for your loved ones to love you. You don’t have to be at every event in their lives for them to care for you. You don’t have to show your love in the same ways you did before. The ones who truly love you, will still love you when you stop. Just find a new way to show love. Believe that you are worth being cared for when you need it, and taking a time out when you need. You are not alone.

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Also, my garlic bread is still the best in the world. Breakfast Smeakfast!!!!

Picture this…

What if you just pretended you were beautiful.  Even if you didn’t believe it.  Just acted on the assumption that your body and face were beautiful to look at and everyone loved it. How free would life feel?

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My attempt at beach pin-up. Feels pretty freeing to pretend I am beautiful.

 

I tried that. Not intentionally really…I just kind of gave up worrying because I’m old. I’m sick with fibro and I am tired. I’m tired of pulling at my clothes and swimsuits to cover my fat etc. I’m tired of being hot when I go out in the sun because I’ve covered my fat so much. I’m exhausted at a beauty regimen that is sort of simple compared to most of my friends. I am pretty much exhausted at life most of the time. So, I just gave up over vacation.  I took a vacation from caring about fat or my double chin or my red face or any other perceived faults.

I think I was encouraged by my sister a bit. She oozes beauty out of her pores. She is young, blond, vibrant with dazzling blue eyes that are unusually shaped. It gives her an allure I can’t describe.  She is so unbelievably beautiful and I’m all the time being told she looks like me. That reflection, seeing her sometimes when I make a certain face in the mirror, has made me feel beautiful and young. Having her close really makes that connection hum for me.

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Isn’t she the stuff of magic?

I’ve always thought highly of myself, a relatively good self-esteem, but I’ve always been a really good fat person too. I covered myself so not to offend someone, from even before I was truly fat. I made sure my “faults” were covered. I never wore stripes. I covered my legs for the most part. My belly hasn’t seen the light of day since I was fourteen. I wear a skirt with my one-piece swim suit, and usually wear a cover up until I can slink into a pool unnoticed. When I read about the body positive movement I was behind it all! I was like “You go girl! Wear that bikini!!! That woman is a badass, but I could never do it.” I would look down at my fat belly and think “No, not my belly, my belly is not for public consumption.” I believe that I should be free to wear what I like. I believe anyone should be free to wear what makes them feel good. I just didn’t think I was at the place where I could put that belief into practice.

 

The body positivity movement is inspiring, but also defending it can be exhausting. There are people who just don’t understand how horrible it is to hate yourself, or maybe they do? I like to think that they truly believe they are trying to help, even if what they do can harm the fat people in their lives. I like to think the best of people. In my own life, I try to not discuss weight with my loved ones. I get so angry and upset. I am tired of explaining that I have to be in control of my body. I have to feel good about my body in order to provide self-care. Why would I care for myself if I felt my body was not worth the time? We want women to care for themselves, don’t we? I want the women in my life to care for themselves, especially my sister. She is so young and energetic. I want her to think of her body as the beautiful miracle it is. To do that, I want her to see me loving and caring for my body. It may not affect her self-esteem seeing me love myself, but I can always hope. As an older, plus size woman I have learned to actively love myself. I take time to maintain my body and I am learning to cast off all those social conventions that have made me feel uncomfortable with certain pants, stripes or swim suits.

This week between learning about the body positive movement, my sisters influence, and the fact that my fibromyalgia flared I decided to love myself. I decided to cast away all self-doubt and just swim, walk, and laugh with abandon. My sister helped me pick out shorts. I wore shorts in public for the first time in years. My mayonnaise legs basked in the sunlight while looking for whales in the Atlantic Ocean. I ran in with my fat arms waving in the breeze and didn’t care. I was too tired with my body aches to pull down my swimsuit over my thick thighs. Did we get shunned? Made fun off? No. Actually, a woman came over and offered to take pictures of us. She said she was enjoying watching us laugh and looking like we were having so much fun. She wanted to help us commemorate these moments. It was a pretty amazing day at the beach.

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Don’t we look beautiful happy?

The last day we were there my sister was kind of bummed we didn’t get to swim in the ocean again and we usually try to do something a little crazy and life affirming when we get together, so I suggested we get into the ocean with our full clothes on. I was wearing leggings, an exercise bra and kind of a fancy shirt. Right up until we got to the water, I was going to wear my shirt because I had always said, “Never my belly.” At the last minute after placing my purse on a rock, and giving my husband my phone to take pictures, I triumphantly whipped off my shirt and bared my belly in my exercise bra. I just dove in and laughed at the wildness of running into the ocean almost fully clothed. I was having too much fun splashing and laughing with my husband and sister to care about how my white fat belly looked in the sun. Again was I laughed at? Pointed at? I don’t think so. I wasn’t paying attention. Frankly, I didn’t care one last bit.

I felt triumphant. I was bonding with my family and I was not ashamed. It has made me want to take care of my body even more. I was exhausted and sore after. I don’t want to be exhausted and sore while on vacation anymore so I am working even harder. It isn’t shame that works, it is capability that inspires me. Please listen, if you feel like only shame works. It doesn’t. Living is a pretty magnificent carrot. It’s hard living when you’re shrouded in shame.

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That’s right! That’s my beautiful belly.

Get It Together Doctors

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One of the bad days.

I have become a member of an online Facebook group for fibromyalgia sufferers. I started exploring the different avenues for support for people with fibro. We don’t have a support group in the Philadelphia area that I could find. I wanted to be around other people who know what I am going through. I was hoping that I would feel less alone on those days that I am in pain and can’t leave the house. I also was hoping to learn what those women and men who deal with fibromyalgia on a day to day basis did to ease their symptoms. I was looking for comraderie, sisters in arms, people fighting a fight together. That isn’t really what I found, yet.

Sometimes these chats seem like only people who are suffering together. They are encouraging, sympathetic, and lovely. We are all suffering. The thing about fibro is that we’d have a pretty pitiful march if we were going to battle. Most of us can’t walk very far at all. Most of us are in constant pain and feel nauseous and feverish. We feel like we are hung over AND have the flu. It’s not like we can usually muster up a rallying cry. It would come out like a sigh more likely. But I am still looking for a way to cope.

I’m not ready to be couch bound. I want to walk for hours-down streets I’ve never seen. I want to be able to fly without pain. I want to be able to do yoga for an hour without taking a two day break to recover, because Philly has free yoga on the pier. To do yoga by the water would be a dream.

I am not ready to give up on those dreams. I need to continually feel like I can do it. I need to know in my brain that it is possible for these things to happen someday-even if it is not true. I need to be able to strive for it. If I believed that it wasn’t possible I would probably curl up in a ball and give up. I desperately and deeply need the motivation.

I guess I am looking for someone to say this is working for me, you can too. Isn’t that such bullshit? No one is going to give me a get well quick story. This isn’t that kind of syndrome. Fibro is forever. I get that. They say that you can live with it. What exactly that looks like isn’t really clear. From the testimonies on so many fibro sites it seems dreary and hopeless. Most of my fibro sisters have spouses that don’t care enough to find out about their wives’ condition so they complain about their inability to perform tasks, their inevitable weight gain and they belittle the pain they’re in. Most of them have kids who are ungrateful, and employers that could care less. It is a sea of harshness in a world of people who should be treated with kid gloves. These people are in pain constantly, who still have to perform their lives, AND try to figure out how to medicate themselves.

Think about your mother. Everyone in the world who had a good mom, think about that mom. What if she had fibromyalgia. She would have never had time to figure out how to make her life easier. Most moms don’t have time to get their nails done or catch their own movie, less known go to physical therapy or read a book on fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia is predominantly a female syndrome so females are too busy building families and running the f*&Oing world to treat themselves to all the doctor’s appointments, or go to physical therapy twice a week, or a trigger therapy masseuse. I am extremely lucky; my partner is the most remarkable partner in the world. He is seriously amazing. Most women don’t have my privilege or my support.

I don’t work right now. It’s my turn to be at home because I worked while Brad went to school. So, I get to follow my dreams now. Part of that dream is to get healthy. I am working on that full time while also trying to get my writing going. It is unusual that any woman has the time I do to do the research, go to doctors and physical therapy, schedule workouts, meal plans, and supplements. Right now, I am extremely lucky for a fibromyalgia sufferer.

It is easy for me to have spunk. It is easier for me to get riled up, throw my fist in the air and say, “I will figure this out. I’m gonna live a good life!”

The big problem is that fibromyalgia has been around in some form since 1904 according to a government web site. They knew about it since then, but didn’t do an official study until 1981. The AMA didn’t recognize it until 1987. Do you think that it is a coincidence it took so long to get acknowledged on a disease that mostly affects women?

So, the medical community hasn’t done that great for these women. Most doctors don’t really give these patients a lot of options. I’ve been going to the doctors and physical therapists for over a year and it wasn’t until I picked up a book by Dr. Ginerva Liptan called The Fibromanual that I found out some information that is really helping me. No one else has explained the disease to me so clearly or why I need to do the things I do. Of course, The Fibromanual was written by a woman who also has fibromyalgia. That is how we get things done, right?

I’ve only been following her advice for two weeks and already I feel a little better. See these chats I have been observing on Facebook and other support group web sites only make me mad. It is another way that women are neglected in this society. I can forgive their partners for not knowing what fibromyalgia is, because I am still figuring it out and I am a dogged opponent even without a medical degree. I can forgive kids for being little ungrateful shits, because that’s what they are supposed to be, but I can not forgive doctors who get paid more than most of the population for not taking enough time to truly give these women relief. I recommend every doctor who has a general practice to read The Fibromanual and other books. Give the women who are sixty percent of the work force, and seventy percent of the home care, some attention please. Give them a fighting chance to get out of bed without pain.

To all my fellow sufferers,

I know your life is busy. I know sometimes this seems hopeless. It sucks. I feel it everyday. There is hope. Read up as much as you can and press your doctor to read up too. It is there job. Don’t let them get away with not knowing how to help you. That sucks. My first book recommendation is The Fibromanual. It even has a section you can hand your doctor. Know your body, and know that there is some relief out there. Try if you can to prioritize your health for a little while so that you can get a system down that will provide you with happy pain free days. Get help. The people that love you will realize you are worth the time you need to figure it out.

Danielle

And So It Goes…

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Isn’t he cute? He is super supportive and the reason I can take days off to recover in my pajamas. 

I am admonishing myself today because I am in my special soft pajamas and my softest sweater because I over did it yesterday. I did my yoga, my writing, and then I cleaned the kitchen and deep cleaned the refrigerator. I took out three trash bags from all the cleaning I did yesterday. I also washed the bathroom floor by hand because my hair just doesn’t come up with a mop. I was extremely excited when husband got home, but by the time we went to bed I could not move my head without groaning.

I am extremely lucky because my amazingly patient husband gave me a massage to loosen me up enough to go to sleep, but then this morning I woke up in full -just got hit by a mac truck- fibro mode. If you don’t have fibromyalgia I will remind you that it feels like when you have the flu, but you don’t vomit. You are sore all over, nauseous, and swollen in places. So basically it is like you have the flu but also got beat up last night. It’s a wonderful way to start the day, let me tell you.

So today I am sitting here watching Monday’s Dancing with the Stars and the fog in my head is coming and going. Right now, in a moment of mental clarity, I am wondering how long it will be before I learn my lesson. I want to manage my energy better. I feel like I make progress and then get excited and do too much. I get a little encouragement, and say I GOT THIS!!! I got this all the way to the couch. Dang it to hell. It is so frustrating. Now I have lost a whole day. I have lost an entire day to sitting around without any progress. I know I shouldn’t let it, but it pisses me off and makes me feel guilty. I know it shouldn’t but I keep going over where I went wrong and how I could have broken up tasks. Maybe I could have eaten better. Would that have made a difference? Should I have split up cleaning the fridge? Two shelves one day, the rest another? These are the questions I feel like all fibro people ask, am I wrong?

Managing your activities can be tedious. These are base activities that most humans have to do: cook, clean, walk, fold laundry. I have to dose them out like medicine. Too much medicine and I crash. Today is crash day.

Will I ever get it down? Will I ever learn? I doubt it. My mom has had fibromyalgia for years. At least once a month she is telling me about something she over did. This week she mowed the lawn and the next day her back hurt and she was out of commission. She hasn’t learned.

Also, hopefully my baseline for what I can do will improve if I keep working at it. I have to keep chipping at that line that I am not supposed to cross. I have to keep trying to move it forward. So, I guess that I will be having more days like this. By that logic, perhaps these days aren’t that bad.

I keep trying over and over to be more capable. I keep trying to push the limits of my abilities. That is a good thing. So maybe it was stupid to do too much too fast, to be excited when I feel good, and to fall for it again. This excitement (like look what I can do!) is contagious and insatiable sometimes. I want to feel normal, that is natural. I want to reach out to all those people with fibromyalgia and tell them not to feel bad when you make a mistake like this.

Fibromyalgia should be called baby steps. (Please excuse the What about Bob reference Bill Murray.) Baby steps to a clean kitchen, baby steps to a clean bathroom, baby steps to a vacuumed floor and baby steps to a rewarding life. I should make it a mantra. I should add it to my morning meditations so that I don’t forget.

It can be hard to always live a mindful life down to the most minute activity, but that is the new regime with fibromyalgia. I will always struggle with being guilty because I’ve done too much. As a fat person, I’ve always felt guilty for not doing enough, for not loving exercise. Now in my forties I am finally loving exercise and I have to put a cap on it. I struggle not to feel guilty at all anymore because it helps no one. If you have fibro or some other chronic illness, or even if you don’t – how do you stop the guilt train? It has to stop. It helps no one. How do you stop the guilt train? We have to put an end to it for our collective health. We have to band together and be encouraging to ourselves. Not just because guilt, shame, and stress can cause not just mental anguish but physical pain in fibromyalgia. I don’t think those things are good for any human.

In addendum: My husband read this before posting. He said that it would probably help for caregivers and spouses to read this. He said it helped understand better. I know if you have fibro you understand this push and pull with your abilities, but maybe your partners don’t. My husband is truly the greatest husband in all of the world. He dotes on my like I am his “precious.” So, if he is still figuring it out then I am guessing education is needed for more partners in this world. I hope this that this essay helps, but I would also recommend: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/