Monday, December 11, 2017

Magic in a Bottle- A Holiday Craft

It’s a strange and turbulent time of change for me; my family is moving again over the holiday and I am trying to keep myself calm at the center of the storm. 

This is when the true pain of being a Myalgia Mommy hits and here is the fun of the the blog. I'm all about magic and recycling. 

It’s time for a quick and easy Holiday craft to keep the monsters busy. I have a six year old and my Little Man will be 3 soon. I am hosting the kindergarden at our house for a special farewell party and trying to be present to their little needs. 

I’m leaving Niger after a year that I’m sure I will be processing the rest of my life. Over the course of this year I became involved in volunteering at a local orphanage. Initially, I went alone as part of the group from the US Embassy that makes a monthly visit. Other members of our party brought their families and inspired me to do the same.  This past weekend my entire family as well as our friends helped me prepare an activity for our last visit to see children I have come to know and love. 

The craft we did was inspired by MySweetArts mommy and me class years ago. (There is no recycling in Niamey, but I have been conditioned to sort my things so I have a closet full of bottles for crafts)(My recycling closet needs to be it’s own blog)(It’s actually more of a small room). These are their projects. 

The classes lifted me up at the time and we have carried the bottle full of glitter that Mimi made in class years ago with us to Africa. 

Something I made a point of saying was that it was possible to do the same craft here with the children in the orphanage that my friends came up with for a class in Chapel Hill. I sourced everything locally. All children deserve the chance to make a bottle filled with magic at the holidays. 

For the toddlers and youngest we filled plastic bottles with pom poms, glitter, small metallic trees and stars then filled them with water. When you shake the bottle it glitters and the pom noms float at different speeds. 

We brought and shared a Santa snow globe and the older children made fake snow with an instant science kit. Then they grew crystals to keep them busy. We used a kit but there are wonderful sugar crystal tutorials to follow.

The craft was snow globes. For older children we had science kits with instant grow crystals and balls that expanded. 

For those that were ready to craft it was the magic of glitter, something shiny, more glitter, some water and a small animal. 

I told the kids I sat with that the gold glitter was a sandstorm and Africa was full of Holiday magic. We should all make wishes on stars. 

Over the weekend my children first made the snow globes I found at Target on my medical visit (I should really blog about going home to North Carolina every three months to see my doctor…it’s complicated.) Then we separated and cleaned our bottles for the activity with the children. We had to soak labels off bottles a friend brought over, it was a group effort with our kids being busy and engaged. 

On the day of the activity we had a large group of volunteers. Many friends and some teachers accompanied  us on the trip and we spread magic and glitter everywhere. 

In one spilt bottle and a poof a dozen children were covered in golden specks. 

One of the kindest men I've ever met, who runs the REMAR center and has adopted many children of his own asked us to please stop with the glitter. 

Wherever you are reading this, happy holidays. I highly encourage you to put some glitter in a bottle or make a snow globe with your kids. It’s an easy win. I should be packing. 


P.S.  The magic part of the bottle was in the glitter. I was unpacking with our pre-school teacher-who came on the trip to see our kids- and would be repeating the snow globe activity. She had been surrounded by children asking for more glitter and we carefully poured it out, watching it spill across the water, or fill the little bottles. Only adults could hold the glitter. We filled the 70 bottles we brought the children and the jar of glitter is still half full…

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Helping helpers in Africa

I’m haunted by the face of a woman I thought I knew. She is a patient at a maternal health clinic where I volunteer. Most of the women are recovering from surgery. She was there, I thought as a grandmother. Her face echoed decades to me and I have been treating her as an elder. Yesterday, I was told she was there as as returned patient waiting to have a C-section following her fistula surgery so she could have a baby. I was amazed and asked my friend to inquire her age, how fertile was she? She is 22. 

This has become a global blog. On Facebook the Myalgia Mommies link posts the recent Mom blogs and occasionally inspiring thoughts. For now the blog is about living with chronic pain really anywhere in the world. The answers are the same. For me it has been to become invested in helping others to get outside of my circumstances and pain. (Living abroad was also a strategic move.  Here we have gained the ability to hire local help for basic household chores like preparing meals and cleaning. For me that has increased my circle of concern, more about that later). 

For our year of service in Niamey,  Niger we had an annual holiday and chose to spend it in India instead of returning to the U.S.; we are fortunate to have family there and our visit was wrapped in the warmth of their hospitality and love. The difference in the culture granted me different status. The pace of Life in India suits me. I felt wonderful but gained weight. I could live there easily and be content. 

Back in our lives in West Africa, I've was immediately thrown into a situation about access to care how it changes the course of a life. 

When we returned home from India our part-time cook, Mary, who we adore, was waiting in the kitchen for us first thing Monday morning. Mary usually doesn't arrive until after one and she was in the kitchen before we made coffee, sitting on a chair, upset and hunched over and asking for our help. The left side of her face was hurting her and she couldn't open her eye. She was having horrible headaches. 

The previous week she had awoken with a terrible pain in her head and couldn't open her eye. Her husband told her she slept on it funny and not to worry. She waited two days before going to the National Hospital where they gave her eye drops that did nothing. So she returned to the National Hospital the next day and they gave her a medicine that made her sick. Now she had come to us. 

it was five days post siezer/stroke incident and she was still in immediate pain. A friend of mine here is a part-time ophlathmologist at local clinic and sent her to the specialty cliic. There she was given a medication which when it was translated and checked came out to be a US veterinarian medicine. It was at least an analgesic. It was not the steroids that she needed. Here in Niamey it would be difficult to get her the diagnosis let alone care that she needed. 

We loved Mary because she gave us constant updates about her family in Ghana. Mary is past retirement age even by Nigérian standards. Her sons are in Ghana where both her parents are alive in their 90’s. She has two surviving brothers who also live in Ghana and between them a tribe of nieces and nephews: some of whom had lived with her for a few years through an Africa cousin exchange program that makes sense to me. Mary and her husband, who is half Nigerian and teaches at the university, are here for the economic opportunity.

Mary is only a part time cook who comes in the afternoon to prepare a meal for us and tell us a story about people in Niamey or news from Ghana. She had worked at the Embassy and the American School and was full of opinions. She was better than talk radio for me and I love her dearly. 

It immediately occurred to me that Ghana has better medicine than Niger and she has her entire family there to help her. The next day Mary was on a bus to Ghana and has since been seen and stabilized. Her health is good but she still can’t open her eye. We’ve spoken a few times, she calls for updates on the children and to thank me for helping her. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be sick in Niger with no resources. 
After Mary left, I had to make dinner every night and we had a different kind of pasta four nights in row. Some things never change. 

Lately, I’ve finally had a bit of free time to devote to doing what makes me happy. I’ve been doing some volunteer work at a women rehabilitation center. It turns out the best thing for me to do is to use my skills to help others in a way that lets me hold babies. Seeing these young women recovering from traumatic births or the loss of a baby and moving forward with life is inspiring and I want to help them however I can. It makes me feel blessed and puts my problems in perspective. 

Enjoy this photo of me holding a baby. I can't pronounce his Housa name let alone begin to spell it. He and his mother came to the center after he was delivered via cesarian section at the government hospital. They have both done well recovering. I love him. 

Epilogue, Edited September 26, 2017. 

Mary called from Ghana today. She wanted me to know that she was doing well and had finally started treatment and her eye was opening. I tried to ask her if she had a diagnosis or what the doctors told her; it is frustrating to get information out of Mary. Her responses are "God Bless, I am well, it's not what you thought it was. Thank you!" It also reminds me of trying to talk to any elderly relative about a medical condition that they don't fully understand. She is well. These last few weeks her sons were still home from school so she's been with her boys. The schools in Africa start first week in October, her sons are in University in Ghana.

Below is Mary covered in my children the day she left for Ghana.

Monday, June 26, 2017

My Butterfly Effect

One of the fun things about being a parent is that you can teach your children facts and reality as you perceive them. I have named our new home in Africa "La Maison Des Papillons" (The House of Butterflies) and am proceeding to teach them a completely incorrect version of the Butterfly Effect. 

Life in Africa has been a daily struggle and adventure. I have taken the opportunity to create my own butterfly effect of small acts of kindness and goodwill to try and always teach by example. 

Initially, we basically stayed within the walls of our house following strict security guidelines and what we were told about our neighborhood. In this time I decorated our metal interior doors and the wrought iron stair rail with dozens of lifelike and life sized butterflies to remind my daughter of home (she had a butterfly room and we used to visit the butterfly pavilion at the local Museum of Life and Science on a weekly basis)  and break up the whiteness of our new embassy provided house. When we did go out I try to smile at everyone and greet each person I see with a smile and "Bon Jour" or "Bon Soir" depending on the time of day. 

In our first month here I met an artist, Boubacar Djibo, who has a small metal shack where he sells his paintings at one end of our street. He was patient with my broken French and we found a way to communicate. Boubacar loves Niger and it is reflected in all of his paintings of local scenes and nature. He wants the rest of the world to see the joy and beauty here. I asked him to come and paint a mural in our living room; now we have large trees, some bright flowers and two large butterflies adorning the walls. My children were enthralled by our artist in residence and painted along with him as they rediscovered their love of art. 

In an earlier post I described how one of the first plants I recognized to fill my new garden with was a lantana, so we have a butterfly garden. I finally had an open house and in the invitation told everyone that we lived in "La Maison Des Papillons." Our first party was also a showcase of Boubacar's recent works to support the artist and share some of the bright colors with all in our acquaintance. I also printed out the wikipedia definition of "the butterfly effect" and scattered it on coffee tables. 

As each day brings whatever new challenge or pain for me, I try to be as relentlessly positive and friendly to those around me as I see so many other people who struggle to survive.  That is the challenge of living in Niger: we are surrounded by profound poverty. Outside our walls are naked children. When I drive around the city, children swarm my car every time I am stopped in the chaos of traffic. I try to keep extra bars, candy or change to always give them. When I don't have anything I smile and apologize. I never ignore them or pretend they aren't there. I also can't stay home; somehow I still need to go to the store everyday for milk, juice or bread. Now, when I run this errand I am grateful of the luxury of affording whatever food or whim my children have and being able to quickly meet that need. 

I've tried to unlock the city by driving around and being courageous. Others in my position have retreated to their homes but I want to understand where we are and in each interaction give a positive impression of Americans who are compassionate and good. We have a military presence in Niger and a travel warning that had scared away the tourists that were one of the main sources of income for many different sectors. If shopping for handicrafts can be a force of good then I am a superhero. With the help of a missionary friend I ventured into the local fabric markets and have had long skirts made.  It only took one assisted trip before I had befriended a few merchants and have since returned numerous times myself and with others, my daughter has a wardrobe of new dresses. The bright fabrics are addictive, I love to buy them but lack the vision to design interesting things to make with them so for now am hoarding fabric. 

We have found an orphanage to help, they are on Facebook at REMAR Niger. Initially the trips were planned by someone at the embassy but she has moved on and now the activity is mine to plan. When we arrive the children line up and sing to us, in order of size the rock back and forth while bursting with a hymnal. The local law prevents Americans from adopting. Last month I prepared for our trip by purchasing candy, a bushel of mangoes and printing out sheets of Maya Angelou and Serena Williams to color. I also found a French translation of the poem “Still I Rise" and printed out several copies for the older girls. After the children sang to us one of the older girls read the poem and the everyone colored a picture. On a previous trip when we gave them bunnies to color they gave us back the pages at the end of the visit. This time they focused on coloring a picture of a woman who looked like them and wrote famous words with reverence and concentration. As they finished I noticed them slipping away to put the finished pictures in their private hiding spots to treasure, no one offered to give us back their finished work. 

Niger has recently been rated the worst country to be a female child. I don't want to blog about the sadness I have witnessed. Each day I try through my actions to send ripples of a little joy and inspiration. 

Here I have a gardener, a nanny who helps with the housework and a lovely woman who comes to make dinner. I hoped that this help would give me space to rest and feel better. It may be the heat (average temp last month was 110) or that I still wake at 5:30 to make pancakes and interact with my children, but I find that I am overcome by fatigue and pain every afternoon. Fortunately, I can sleep for a few hours. 

A decade ago when I was very sick, a family member asked "what would you do if you lived in Africa?" trying to imply that my fibromyalgia wasn't real and that as a twenty something I needed to "tough it out" for the sake of the family. Now I know what I would do in Africa. I keep a positive outlook, take care of my children first, and help as much as I can before the pain and fatigue drag me into bed. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentines from Africa

It's been a few years since my traditional Valentines Day blog. 

Even in Africa my tree is still up. I haven't managed to organize my usual mailing this year. Instead, I’ve been inspired to write poetry again lately and I’ve decided to share it here as my Valentine’s Day gift to you. The first poem was inspired by our new life as an Embassy family living in Niger.  We are strangers in a strange land. So I wrote this poem about kindness: 

The Feather of Kindness

A feather fell from one of my dear ones cages
“An Angel is near.” she said with a smile of love

She sees feathers everywhere.

I found a pile of feathers in our new home

Are angels everyday acts of grace by friends?

I was profoundly grateful.

We saw a feather on the playground 
She said: “Don’t touch that, it’s filthy!”

Did I miss your kindness?

We try to do our daily act of good

to help who we can and those I love

I find feathers everyday.

Here in this desert Oasis I have seen such wonderful

exotic birds, I can’t wait to explore...

What feathers have you found?

This second poem is my gift to everyone. Especially myself. 

The Bubbles of Forgiveness 

Forgiveness is like Champagne 
when you truly feel it and let go of
all those knots of fury into light
and then it just bubbles and bubbles 

and floats away

The euphoric feeling of bubbles 
Reaching like a child to hold forgiveness
Laughing at how easy all the anger 
was to simply let go, like so many

Bubbles on the wind

Champagne impedes dementia they’ve
found and so I’ve put my faith as always 
in the magic of science
I only drink Champagne and always savor it for the bubbles

I’m believe this forgiveness will have some 
Salubrious effect on my mind, but I 
Know that bubbling away that anger was good for my soul

Bring on more Champers!

Happy Valentines Day, please have a glass of something bubbly and try the euphoric feeling of forgiveness if you haven't lately. It has done me a world of good. 

This year I didn’t mail many cards, I’m still getting settled, but do know that I am thinking of you constantly and sending all my best. 


Monday, January 30, 2017

Greetings from the Garden

I cheated.

This year I got a head start on the garden.

One of our favorite books is Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert (Harcourt).

We went to the nursery and bought the rainbow (A good friend once told me to bloom where planted, gardening is always the beginning of a new home).

These are the benefits of living in Niger, the flowers are aways in bloom.  The rainbow here is the familiar; lantana and birds of paradise for the butterflies to attract friends to the garden, citronella to keep pests away and the same lettuces we love.

It's a good life for a Myalgia Mommie and I hope to write more as we settle into a new routine. I have an amazing garden and the children are flourishing. We relocated to Africa during the Holiday season to try something completely different.

Living with Chronic Pain I find gardening and meditating to be most efficacious for a myriad of symptoms, at least for me.

As research continues to demonstrate, there is a powerful mind/body connection. I enjoy gardening because we can witness the fruits of our labors in a relatively short period of time. It also gives a sense of achievement or accomplishment. (Except the orchids I killed, but that's another blog...) Sometimes, I need that short term validation. The salad we picked last night was wonderfully satisfying.

Parenting is such a long game. As we talk to friends who are becoming grandparents, I realize this isn't a phase of life: this is life.

I had to come to Africa to find a place where I could raise my three darlings in the environment that I think will be best for their growth. Also, it sounded like a fun adventure. Here I have found people raising happy children with little or no resources. I've also found some orphans to give my extra energy to, so things are good. It's strange being in such an empty place during a time of great migration.  I will try to learn different lessons and write again soon.

Niamey, Niger

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A safety pin story and plea for Mental Health Reform

This originally appeared in my other blog The Silver Ribbon Campaign and Briefly here on Myalgia Mommies. The bill passed through the house and will be considered by the Senate after Thanksgiving. I urge you to call your Senator, we can still get a positive change in 2016. 

I am wearing a safety pin as a sign that I will stand for tolerance and all safe spaces. That includes brain science....

It's funny how timing happens. Today H.B. 2646 The Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act is being marked up in the House of Representative Energy and Commerce Committee. It has been over a year since this bill was introduced. It will address many of the holes in the current mental health system. It comes at a time when many are going on record as demanding better access to mental health treatment. I hope the bill is passed as quickly as possible.

Over the years I have called and emailed the congressional offices many times. Below is the message I sent today. I am not passing out Silver Ribbons at the rally. I am asking that everyone please put a safety pin in their lapel instead. This is a symbol that we believe in brain science and are making sure it is funded. Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time for fully considering the substance of H.B. 2646 today. This fall it will be eighteen years since I lost my mother, Margaret Ray, to suicide. I have tried to make things better. Recent statistics would indicate that my efforts have not been successful. All I did was pass out Silver Ribbons. I think I already gave you one. If you don’t have one and want to show support for Mental Health reform please just put a silver safety pin in your lapel as a sign that you believe we can cure brain diseases.  It is an excellent bill.

When I was in school the Surgeon General released a report on Mental Illness and stated that it was the greatest Public Health threat facing the country. I had the opportunity to see the science of brain imagery and the cutting edge of research first hand when I went on a book promotion tour in 2000. Over the past sixteen years I have endeavored to keep up with the reading and have changed and evolved some of my understanding of what a brain disease looks like. We've come to understand profound things about ourselves and our brains. We have tried some programs that worked and sadly are seeing the glaring mistakes that were made. We need more beds and a general increase in funding. H.B. 2646 addresses many of these issues and takes steps to move forward with best practices.

During that long ago tour, I passed out silver ribbons as part of a larger national effort. (I also inherited the foundation for my poor mother who took her life when I was a law student. When she took her life she left a hole in mine and because she involved the media, she put a huge red flag on my internet background check. Whether or not you believe in stigma against the mentally ill, I believe that it has had a strong impact on my career options.) At the time several of the national mental health advocacy organizations were supporting the silver ribbon for the brain campaign. Mental health is just not something people want to talk about. I don't think anyone wants to wear a silver ribbon.

Almost everyone is touched by a story of mental illness. If they haven't experienced it yet, they are either very young or incredibly self absorbed. Helping someone with any kind of bought of illness can be exhausting, it is harder when the illness must remain a secret. Over the past few decades, getting mental health treatment in the US has been a struggle for many resulting in long sad stories. I have found that if you wear a silver ribbon and put yourself out there as a mental health advocate, people are going to tell you horribly sad stories that you can't do anything to help.

So, thank you for doing the hard work of listening to all the families who have called in and told their stories to you during this lobbying effort. I wish I was there with a basket of silver ribbons. If you wish to show your support, please put a silver safety pin on your lapel to show that we take care of invisible diseases too and everyone will try to be grateful.


Anna-Lisa Johanson, JD-MPH
Please join me in wearing a safety pin as a sign that you believe that science will overcome mental illness. In these sad days, it's a way of saying that we are doing the best we can. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

My Cheeseburger

We all must be careful with the words we use. Words have power. Don't get me started on politics…It is also this permanence that kept me from writing.

Of all the aspects of my narrative to focus on, the fact that I’m doing it while I have a headache or am in pain is not what I want to highlight. It’s like the card that says “Ginger Rogers did it backwards and in heels…” I stopped writing this blog because I didn't want my definition of myself to include any diagnosis or conversation about my health. It is what it is.

I haven't updated the blog in two years because I have been quite undone…by a son.

He is amazing and the third child was the one that pushed us over the edge into constant chaos. We call him Cheeseburger. It was the only thing I craved while pregnant.…I was a vegetarian for years so there was particular irony when I heard the siren song of a burger.

As a third child he exceeded our population growth limit and I’ve been mindful and tried to use cloth diapers and as few resources as possible. So, I’ve legitimately been busy.

I told my neurologist that if you took the World Health Organization Disability Test and replaced the word “Disability” with “Children,” you get a pretty high score. At least I do. I’ve been overwhelmed by my children and recognize that I am blessed that the little monsters are healthy and bright enough to do so.

This blog continues to get readers despite my inactivity in part because I said that Myalgia Mommies are very different from Chronic Babes. (One of my favorite communities and is AMAZING!) To me Chronic Babe is a great resource for reminding you will get through this and be adorable.  This blog was meant as a place to go when you felt like "on top of all this pain I have to parent!" the goal is to be an entertaining distraction and as a reminder that you are not alone. My third pregnancy made me face exactly what it meant to be a mother knowing my limitations. I suffer from chronic daily headaches, fibromyalgia and anxiety. Children are triggers for all of these conditions. A child is a selfish, expensive decision (or blessing!) that alters the course of your life. They are also the source of pure magic.

I really wanted that cheeseburger.

I also feel like I need to stop mentioning that I have these chronic debilitating conditions because I am clearly still getting things done. Last weekend I went to a Mothers of Multiples tag sale. Those amazing women had multiple babies of the same age and were part of a volunteer club, they were all up, there and going through the motions.

There was a video that circulated the internet of the different kinds of moms on the playground: baby wearing mom, breast feeding mom, working moms, etc, I think if the Myalgia Mommies all had a secret nod we would be in a corner in sunglasses having quiet time. We could take turns watching the children like a pride of large cats.

That would be really cool.

I’ll look for you at the park.

Otherwise, it’s been a rough few months. I knew I was predisposed to a perinatal mood disorder or post-partum depression. It’s like a slow flood. You expect it, it comes, you deal with it, then you clean up after. I’ll blog about that separately. Also, I have three children.

I wish that every woman who suffers from postpartum depression can get the help and support that I did. In my case, I knew I was headed to a dark place: I learned of my pregnancy the same week that we put my father in hospice. He did not live to meet my son. Anyway…I keep promising myself that I am going to start writing again and this is a good first step.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Blue Monday Dispatch

Blue Monday, the second Monday in January, is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. I learned this from Facebook and Mental Health Foundation who offered great tips for coping. 

Depression and Chronic Pain inevitably go together. The pain wears you down, "why me" niggles at the back of your mind, and if you have to give up plans or activities it is a real loss. I have been living with depression as my little black dog for over a decade and struggled with it as an adolescent. 

Living with Chronic Pain I have acquired new mental illnesses and repeatedly had the conversation with psychiatrists that my mood is more a reflection of the weariness of waking up in pain day after day or from having to accept that the plans I had for my life and career are not possible given my physical limitations. 

Consindering everything, I think I'm a positive ray of sunshine. 

This past week found me experiencing a bad muscle spasm and pinched nerve. Fortunately, I have an accupuncturist who makes home visits and I respond well to alternative therapy. I also have a small pharmacy of Western medicine and an appointment with my neurologist as back up. It's still a struggle. 

So, after a previous week of pain and a few days on the couch, Blue Monday dawned as the beginning of a New Year; It was a rough day for me and involved more self reflection than I wanted to deal with on a cold day. 

We started the day with a fresh semester of music and art class. Memes and I started going to a wonderful music and art program run by two amazing moms when she was six months old. Since we have known them both women have given birth while they continued to design and develope this brilliant little program. 

Now we have moved up to the toddler class from the infant group and I noticed that the group has changed from a majority of parents to over half of the adults being hired caregivers as the parents were both working. The conversation around the art table was about which classes the toddlers were enrolled in, a nanny told me they have a different class everyday. I felt terrible. In my mind I am a stay at home full time mother devoting all the energy I have to being the best caretaker possible. 

Over the holidays I have been playing up the ideal 1950's homemaker motif because it matches my kitchen and makes everyone happy. I am trying to be the ultimate mom. I've been baking and cooking and almost keeping the house clean. I've bough new organizing baskets and this may be the year that everything has a place...

Anyway, these nannies made me feel like I am falling behind in classes for the baby. Then I came home and started worrying about whether my older daughter was engaged in enough meaningful extracurricular activities. 

My blues quickly turn into anxiety.

In the hazy memory of the days before my body rebelled I remember the woman who charged headlong into all kinds of intriguing situations and was often criticized for being overconfident. Now I find that I have developed many flavors of anxiety to accompany my illness. 

One form it has recently taken is Social Anxiety. To begin with I'm never sure what to wear: what is appropriate for my age and what I'm doing, or what reflects who I am at this stage in life. After that I get very defensive about my choice to be a full time SAHM. I know that it is a luxury. For me it is not really a choice. 

To top the day off, we attended a retirement party for a colleague of my husband. He is an Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of Justice. The retirement party was for a wonderful man who had worked in the office next to him and been a good friend since we moved here. I wanted to see him and wish him well. 

The idea of being in a room of working attorneys and having to make small talk terrified me. I am deeply insecure about my decision to be a full time stay at home mother and would love to be working part time once Memes is old enough for school. Hopefully, I will at least be able to write! 

In my cocktail chatter I found an alternate cause for Blue Monday: the lawyers who worked for firms all had to start the years billable hours at zero. It's a daunting thought.

I'm not sure what my master plan for this year will be. My efforts to be a fabulous and inspired Mom will continue. I will use my degrees to be the most amazing Mom in the neighborhood, on days that I can move around. I'm trying to make SuperMom a career choice but I'm not very good at it. 

I'm writing this on Gray Tuesday. On my phone. Hopefully I will get some more posts up soon, my draft folder is embarrassing!

Happy New Year, the darkest day is over! 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day Thank You

On Veterans Day I'm being grateful for the Veterans in my life and thinking of the recent Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. 

Thank you. Everyday. 

It's Veterans Day Weekend and I'm thinking of the chronic pains suffered throughout the military families that I know. 

I'm really grateful. 

Happy Veterans Day. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Superheroes, supershopping and Superfoods

My daughters were superheroes for Halloween. 

The baby was Super Meme and had been practicing her hero leaps for the month of October. She must have over heard her sister and I talking about costumes (being 2 she is very impressionable). My tween and her middle school friend were matching superheroes so she could have eavesdropped on them. The friends high school sister and her friends were superheroes too, so all ages here were in on the conspiracy. (As were the major retailers!) I scrambled to find a costume fitting the role of Super Mom and wondered if writing this blog disqualified me. 

On twitter I joked that feminism has succeeded. (I hope it has, but as I get older I realize the word has so much baggage it will take another generation!)

My fall hobby is to conduct alumni interviews for my superlative alma mater and the young people I meet are all superheroes. They are high achievers with bright futures ahead of them and are fun to meet. I find myself wanting to hang out with thier parents or ask them to mentor my daughter. It is a positive experience that fills me with hope for the future, and ideas of activities for my kids. I find that I can't pass judgement on these wonderful younge people and am writing this blog now when I should be completing the reports from my interviews. The entire process has led me to understand the basis of my greater writers block: whatever you put in writing becomes permanent. 

My super girls are thriving. The little one deleted the first draft of this blog and used my iPad to order $352 worth of random things from my favorite shopping app. I am conflicted over whether to be proud of her ability to use these devices that intimidate me or ashamed that I am letting my two year old play on evil screens. 

When I called to have the order deleted the woman was not at all surprised when I said my toddler had placed the order. She was impressed by the number and specificity of items. The baby has excellent taste.
My older daughter plays on the Internet too and brought me the magic tablet with a screen opened to what looked like a Fibromyalgia support or advocacy page but upon closer scrutiny was selling some secret formula supplements that promised to help provide more energy and improve quality of life. 

I don't know what ads get placed around this blog so for all I know she could have found it in the margins here or in a site I  recommended. 

My initial reaction was to say "Thank you, but I don't think these will work." 
I think it was the wrong answer. My next answer was to tell her that I already took the best vitamins medically recommended and would stick with those but I'm lucky that I had a doctor who did all the reading to tell me which handful of vitamins to take. By this point she had walked away. 

So I turned to my husband and realizing that the teachable moment was lost, allowed myself to succumb to neurosis. 

I asked in my most accusatory tone "have I said anything lately?" Then added some positive "I've been doing great!" This has the added advantage of being true! Recently I've been experiencing pretty stable health for me, so I have no idea what prompted my daughter to find the ad for a fibro site that promised me energy. Bitterly, I said that if there was a pill that worked for pain relief and better sleep, we would all know about it and someone would be fabulously wealthy. 

There was a time years ago when I scoured the Internet looking for answers and was willing to try anything I found thinking that there was a better answer out there than what the doctors could tell me. These days I live in a state of resignation where I am confident that I am doing the best I can given what is known about my illnesses. I would even go so far as to say I think I am an expert in living gracefully around chronic pain and enjoying life. 

On a constructive note, I did realize how fortunate I have been to have a doctor who combines both Western medicine and vitamin supplements. A large part of my health is from my steady diet of multiple daily superfoods I learned from my doctor, books, friends (who had degrees in nutrition) and experience. 

There is a list of foods that have a higher concentrate of vitamins and minerals than others. The superfoods include: 

Brown Rice
Sweet Potatoes
Red Wine

Those are the really easy ones and if you google "superfoods" there are multiple lists. 

When I remember to eat well I feel much better. Finding the right balance for me took time and continued effort. The first thing I end up having a deep talk with other Myalgia Mommies about is diet, what you eat is a huge part of how you feel. It's also something that you can change about your life. Trying to get my kids to eat a balanced diet is a daily struggle. 

I have been very impressed by some spinach brownie served by another SuperMom. She even made them in a crockpot! So there are more tricks to learn and I won't complain. 

For Halloween I ended up wearing a Cat Woman t-shirt. My SuperMom costume (I was going to wear my vintage MomsRising t-shirt) was in the laundry! 

Maybe next year. 



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