Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Things We Keep

Some things hold us in their allure.

How many mismatched spoons do you have in your silverware drawer? Don't Lie.

 What is it about some possessions that make them special to us and no one else? I keep too much.  I know it. My family knows it. And my daughter does it, too. So did my mom. No, we are not 'hoarders' not that much stuff! But too much- enough that some of our closets really need to be emptied out to be useful again. Do not mention the garage. Please.

My friend Pru  of Creatively Paleo and creator of the delicious Ayni Chocolates recently did a 40 bags in 40 days challenge. So a bag a day to be thrown out or donated to charity. One bag. It sounds impossible to me. But I am going to do it.

Notes from Pru:
  'Accountability really helps - so although it may be boring, IG or tweet the proof every day! Even if it's 11.55 grab a small bag and just fill it - that can be the best time to get motivated and be ruthless. Just keep at it, even if you're just chucking out a tiny bag of junk mail, it's making a difference even if you can't see where yet. 
Make sure to get it out of the house as soon as you can - especially if it's charity shop stuff that you (or children/spouse) might be tempted to reclaim.' Thanks Pru!

If you want to join me, just post your bag a day dreams here in comments.

How will you know what to get rid of? I struggle with that, obviously.

Some reasons things go in the bag:

1. You have not touched or used an item in over one year.
2. It's broken ( come on, you know super glue is not gonna do it here).
3. It does not fit. Do not do the 'I will fit into this soon' dance. Just don't.
4. You have someone in mind that would really get good use out of it.
5.  It belongs to someone else and you thought you would keep it for them when they have kids. OK I DO THIS ALL THE TIME< IT'S ME>

Here is the original challenge information from the White House Black Shutters Blog and there is a print out there for those who need more direction.

 Please share how you were successful or a dreadful failure at crap clearing in your home or car or yard or wherever things live with you.
Love to you all and good bagging
Deb xo
PS To prevent future occurrences, I rarely go to garage sales, thrift stores, only buy what I need and keep things pretty simple. Not acquiring as many things in the first place is really the best way to avoid clutter happening.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Fork In the Road Part 2: The Healing Mindset

  In Part One, we were looking at a post by Coach Scott Abel on using illness as an excuse to escape responsibility. In Part Two, we will look at how you can actively participate in your healing and improve your life.

Here is the last part of his post:  Healing was never meant to be a passive thing – something that happens “to” you. Healing was supposed to imply something you actively participate in. There should be more to treating illness than “swallowing pills” which has the potential for reward in it, by using the “sick” label to remove personal responsibility and expectation from your life’s working equation. Regardless of any ill or disorder – the identity formed in someone as being “limited” “sick” or “victim” should not be reinforced in a way that makes you passive in your own life’s ownership!
Every person should own up to the fact that you are responsible for choices and for your own pursuit of happiness. And in that, you must at least “consider” the possibility that some obscure, hard to define “diagnosis” may be something that rewards you by removing responsibility and expectation from your life. Hard to accept - but so common to witness' 
Some Roads are Full of Dips

Own up to your own pursuit of happiness... let that one simmer in your cranium a bit.  Passive healing.  Is that even a thing?

 Live Like Bill Murray. Relax. Be Yourself. That's it. 

Funny how it works that your best self, what you do for fun and what you care about is the most incredible thing about you. Whenever I try to be something or someone I am not, it leads to so much anxiety and tension I abandon it sooner rather than later. 
um. yeah. Don't.

 You should know that I make worrying into an Olympic sport. And it's really a bad sport to be good at. When I see that I am getting into this area of "nothing bad has happened but what if it did" thinking I have to stop. Breathe. Talk to friends and run my thoughts by them. 9 times out of 10, ok 10 times out of 10, they tell me my worries are useless, unfounded and just plain silly.  So I take my Alfred E. Neuman mask out and try to chill.
What, me worry?          

 If you find out something is going really wrong, in your body, your life, with a  loved one, what then?  What is the road to healing, peace and relaxation Bill Murray style? The road away from worry is not on the map, so how do you get there from here?

Here are my top tips from what I have learned along the way these last 8 years.  If you would be so kind as to share yours in the comments I would stop worrying if anyone is reading this. ;-)

1. Relax. Seriously.

But it's an EMERGENCY I have CANCER/LUPUS/DEPRESSION etc. Yes, some of these require urgent treatment, it's very true. But here's a well kept secret by most doctors, usually, it's not an emergency.  Take my case for example. The online information told me I could expect to die within 2 years, worst case scenario. I would burst into tears reading things like this, really lose it. But I kept reading and I kept working on me. Guided or transcendental meditation is the number one way to relax. Other things help, being in nature, walks, yoga, biofeedback, but meditation is hands down the fastest way to ease both body and mind. Remember, they are connected on a continuous loop, imagine a mobious strip.  You cannot have peace of mind and an uptight tensed up freaked out body. Or vice versa.

 I am so squirmy that guided meditation is the only way to go. I do love me some Meditation Oasis and it's free on iTunes. First thing in the morning, last thing before bed, try it. Headspace is also great, 10 days for free that ease you into meditation with quick 10 minutes sessions.  While we are at it, your staying up late/getting up early days need to end as well. Sleep is your friend so do all you can to get rest in a darkened room for 8-10 hours a night. The body does magic while you sleep but like the Tooth Fairy,  if you are awake you will not get any money under your pillow.

2. Smarten Up
Read, read and then read some more.  Question what you read and research. If you can find a website you trust or a person who has already climbed some of the hills you face, that much the better. Information is Power. I cannot stress that enough. Do not fall for promises of miracle cures, keep your common sense intact at all times. Been there, done that, more in the future on my falls down rabbit holes filled with false promises. Read on healing, books like Getting Well again ( find it on Amazon, link in right hand margin here >>>) can apply to any issue and the techniques are invaluable for getting your mind focused. Read about all sorts of people that have overcome issues, start with Helen Keller for example. If you can find people that have what you are facing, read their stories. Find blogs by people who are in the midst of treatment or in similar boats, check out my blog favorites for some super ones. Their journeys can inform yours. Use their knowledge, build a library of wisdom.
Reading is a Super Power

3. Reach Out
Dwelling on illness is bad enough but doing it alone is the worst. Join support groups to find people in similar situations, many are online or in your city. Check out Caring Bridge, a place to journal and to read others journals. Talk to friends and family but be ready for advice and worry or fears that may be hard for you to handle. Just know that all they want is for you to be Okay. And let them know that all you want is for them to be Okay with you not being totally Okay. 

There are support groups for every possible situation or disease, find a few to try out and see if that helps. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then try a different approach, maybe reaching out to people who share common interests, say cooking or hiking using local Meet Up groups. Don't hole up at home, be sure and let people know that meeting up for tea is a good thing.  Assure them you are interested in their lives too,  even if you feel that your diagnosis may be the elephant in the room. Most folks want to help so let them know that their friendship is the biggest gift they can give you.

4. Move It
That's right, you need to move. Walking in nature or around the block is medicine of a very specific kind. Get a dog if you can, walk one if you already have one, get out and get fresh air. Smell the flowers, meet your neighbors, be in the world. Sunshine in the morning is said to help regulate your sleep. Getting into jogging or marathons is not necessary, just walk. Listen to music or podcast, I prefer to listen to comedy podcasts on my walks. Yoga is great as are all other exercises that get you moving but don't involve you getting so overworked that you end up sidelined by injuries. Weight training is something that is super important for keeping muscle on but don't go in like Arnold. Do go in at your level and don't try to compete with everyone at the gym. Find what works for you. Get a trainer to show you the ropes if need be, but by all means, Do It!
Pump YOU up!

5. Today Is The Best Day
I will keep this one super short. Don't wait. Today is the best day to start. One small change is all it takes, one day at a time, to change a life. What have you been putting off? Do you have a mental list that you have titled 'Someday'? Do it now, plan it, make it happen. Even if you are still under the illusion that you will always have time later, don't wait.  None of us know what tomorrow will bring. So now is always the very best time. Make things happen, there is power in action.

Share your tips in the comments. I need your brains too, no zombie.
xo deb xo

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Fork In the Road: How Diagnosis Affects Mindset Part 1 of 2

 Great things happen when you spend too much time on Facebook. You met the most interesting people, like  Coach Scott Abel, someone I have followed for a few years now. Read more about Coach here
Coach Scott Abel

He's a very smart guy and his background in body building along with his current work is really quite compelling. Coach cuts to the chase, he does not mince words. When I saw this post it really hit a nerve with me, here is an excerpt from his post:

    'Hard Talk is sometimes necessary: Remember basic psychology teaches that if a behavior is reinforced, then it will continue – behavior that is not reinforced will likely cease. It’s how we train all animal species – and humans are also animals. That monkey will do whatever trick it is taught if it is rewarded with food – even intermittently rewarded. If the reward stops, the behavior stops.
People operate the same way – only sometimes the term “reward” may be harder to distinguish. People have many burdens and responsibilities – numbing routines, dead-end jobs, unsatisfying relationships, whatever. And for some, when no other relief from these things is available - then “illness” or “disability” - become an enticing alternative – and a socially acceptable one at that. It is a way to remove yourself from personal responsibility in your own life.
Once diagnosed, “normal expectations” are lowered for you. Now, of course many people with various degrees of “debilitating” illness – obviously are preoccupied with the disadvantages of that illness. And frankly they are insulted by any hint or notion of secondary gain in their lives from their diagnoses.....' 

When I read this I thought 'Wow, is that me?'  I suppose there are people who might fall into what I would consider a trap, that of making their illness who they are. Are there 'secondary gains' from a debilitating disorder? What happens when you are ill but no one can tell?  What is it like to have to tell someone about a less than great or simply awful diagnosis?
 I am guessing that all of you have been on either the giving or receiving end (or both) of that conversation. The saying 'Cancer is a gift but I would not give it to anyone' comes to mind.

Let's go further with Coach Abel's thoughts:
'..... But when people’s “illness” relieves them of work, duty or other real life normal expectations – then it must at least be considered that this is a “payoff” for them – a reward – an escape from drudgery – and just like with rewarding animals – the possibility that their illness also serves as a reward – that possibility must at least be considered. And constantly rewarding and reinforcing this “illness” label can also prolong the unconscious desire to be a willing participant in serving the “sick” role – and engaging in victim status. Over time, thinking of your illness as part of yourself becomes part of your identity – and you become resistant to even want to change.
After a certain amount of time you must entertain the question - what and who are you without your disorder to define you? Treatment for illness was never meant to induce a state of helplessness and dependency – especially at the “expense of” personal responsibility.....'
( To find the full post go here.)

Tough words indeed. And perhaps, a wake up call.  There are illness that are so disabling that  movement of any kind is impossible. There are painful conditions that never give a moments respite and emotional or mental illnesses that make thinking rationally out of the question. I get that.  There are treatments that knock you on your ass too. Through all of it, we need to remember who we really are, really were, before diagnosis, before the crap hit that fan called life.  We all know about Steven Hawking , we have seen Olympians with missing limbs triumph in their sport,  children born blind who grow into incredible artists such as Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder. Coach's post made me think, what is different about these people? What makes them rise even higher with their issues? What is the 'thing' that defines what they do with their life situation?
Bethany Hamilton

   For me, I took the diagnosis and made every effort to overcome it, to not let it define my life. To be honest, my life has been so enriched by all the research I have done, the people I have met  and the personal growth I have experienced. But I am one of the 'invisible' ones, you cannot look at me or even talk to me at length and know that I have an incurable blood cancer. Yet having it has given me such inspiration, such gratitude for the time I do have here on this orb. When an oncologist gives you a 'good' prognosis of 7-10 years, as mine did,  you have a choice to make. And no time to waste.
Expiration Dates are for Milk Cartons

So far, I have not had to swipe my 'cancer card' but I would not hesitate to do so as gracefully as possible if the time comes that I need to. I have had someone swipe theirs on me. At my step daughters graduation it was first in gets the best seats. I was trying to protect my mother in law from getting pushed around as she has osteoarthritis and is pretty fragile. A middle aged woman, closely shaved head held high, pushed us aside and when I protested shouted at me " I have Cancer!" Without even thinking I yelled back "So do I!". It was a surreal moment as my cancer bore no outwards signs yet I would never dream of acting as she did even if  mine was visible.  I would call that using your illness as an excuse for rude behavior,  for not following the rules that all others have to follow.

 Take a look at 'When I Walk' by Jason DaSilva for an idea of what that 'thing' is that defines a person beyond their illness. I highly recommend watching this film, it is simply amazing. (Available on Netflix streaming or dvd.)
Jason is a person who took the cards he was dealt and kept on playing. He could not even finish editing his film on his own as his hands were no longer functional, but here it is with the help of his wife Alice Cook. I am guessing if you met him, MS would be about the last thing he would want to talk about. Unless it was about curing it,  improving peoples lives who have it or wheelchair accessible taxis and buildings.
More on Jason Here
Jason DaSilva In Action

So on diagnosis, I first thought I must fight, I must find a way to get this thing out of my body, a way to live. Then a friend suggested that rather than fight I accept that this illness, this CLL in my bone marrow and blood was actually a part of my physical body. So why would you fight yourself? Rather, he suggested to make peace with it, accept it if you will. That does not take away responsibility in fact, it makes it very clear that action is needed and that is it up to me, not anyone else, to figure out what that action needs to be.  That is a different mindset than letting my illness 'be' me. Of using it as an excuse, as Coach suggested some might do.
On a Saturday Run

What have you done upon learning you had a serious illness? Think about what you would do if you received a diagnosis of a disease, which path you would take at the fork in the road of life.  Share your thoughts in the comments and either you disagree or agree,  that's ok, debate is good for the soul.. and stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion next week. You know I have more to say on this!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

8 years and holding CLL Stage Zero

You may know me as the former blogger on 'Debbie Does Raw' or even my second incarnation as 'Grass Fed Momma'.  Those were different times, and I am still here. Yep. Still alive and well.

    As I head into my eighth year since that fateful meetup with a very large biopsy needle, I am feeling pretty great actually. I see my oncologist every six months and my last blood test was the best ever. Yes, Ever. Since diagnosis in April of 2007 where the white blood cell count hovered around 17k ( normal is 4-10k) this was my best yet. In October of 2014 my white count was 12.9, as close to 'normal' as I have been.
That does not mean I am 'cured' nor does it count as remission but it does mean that my cancer is not progressing at all and that is a very good thing.

  So, how does this effect my daily life? Not that much. I do get tired but I am an older lady now, 56 in May. I am active but not as manic as I used to be thanks to figuring out that all that spinning, weight lifting for hours and running lots of hills was not really better for me. I have to give big ups to Matt Stone of the infamous 180 Degree Health for a lot of my changes for the better. That includes eating a lot more variety of foods and relaxing about food in general. Not the material for a best seller perhaps, but the truth. Some odd bruises pop up here and there, I probably sleep more than the average bear but all in all, if I had not had that biopsy I would still not know that I have CLL.
CLL Cells in Bone Marrow

   I work full time from home, walk my dog a lot, lift some weights, do a bit of this and that. But writing has always been my thing, my favorite next to reading. The urge to write, share, converse on life and all it's crazy loops and turns is pulling on me hardcore. So here I am. And I hope you join me here as well and share your crazy straw of a life with me and everyone else. We need that. Otherwise it's just so lonely to be in the world.
Thank Goodness for my friends and family, they keep me in line and from really being nuts.